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FAQs on Parrot, Jelly-Bean... Cichlids, Environmental Disease   

FAQs on Parrot Disease: Parrot Cichlid Health 1, Parrot Cichlid Disease 2, Parrot Cichlid Disease 3, Parrot Cichlid Disease 4,
FAQs on Parrot Cichlid Disease by Category: Diagnosis, Nutritional (e.g. HLLE), Social, Infectious (Virus, Bacterial, Fungal), Parasitic (Ich, Velvet...), Genetic, Treatments,

Related Articles: Blood Parrots & Flowerhorn Cichlids: maintenance and healthcare of two popular hybrid cichlids by Neale Monks, Neotropical Cichlids, African Cichlids, Dwarf South American Cichlids, Cichlid Fishes in General

Related FAQs: Parrot Cichlids 1, Parrot Cichlids 2, Parrot Cichlid Identification, Parrot Cichlid Behavior, Parrot Cichlid Compatibility, Parrot Cichlid Selection, Parrot Cichlid Systems, Parrot Cichlid Feeding, Parrot Cichlid Reproduction,

Need stable, optimized neotropical cichlid conditions: Hard, alkaline water, not too much metabolite (NO NH3, NO2; no more than 20 ppm of NO3)


Another constipated Blood Parrot?      6/29/17
Hello Crew! OMG-I’m sorry this is so long.
<When it comes to sick fish, we're kind of used to it!>
I am getting more and more worried about my female Blood parrot.
Here’s the background. My husband (good intentionally) grossly over fed my fish (for likely a month). I have a four year old pair of Blood Parrots and a 11 year old Pleco in a 47 gallon pie/bow front tank with an Eheim 2215-temp 80.My male is a very large boy(slightly larger than my hand) and the female 2/3 his size. I had employed a lackadaisical approach to tank housekeeping but until the over feeding, there had never had an (obvious) problem .The parrots appeared energetic, dark orange and healthy. I have always judged their health and happiness by their color as when there is a problem they become quite pale. I was feeding them Omega One cichlid pellets (alternating on occasion with thawed frozen peas). I had always soaked and dropped in 1 pellet at a time to encouraged quicker and cleaner eating habits (and I just like to interact with them). My female had a HUGE appetite easily eating twice that of the male if allowed.
The over feeding /polluted water was noticed at the end of May,(I guess he was just tossing a bunch in- I DID NOT KNOW HE WAS DOING THIS!). It was my female’s reaction to the water that alerted me that something was amiss. I did a massive water change, dropped and broke my filter, ordered a new online and added an air pump to tank. It took a week to get the filter and set it up. My female looked great, my male took about 7 days to “orange up again”.
For the past four days my female has been pale and her belly does look a bit plump- but I honestly can’t say if her belly size has changed- just that it looks more round than the male. From what I have read on your wonderful site- I believe she constipated. Yesterday she did spend the day almost entirely dark orange and I thought we were through the worst of it. But came home from work at midnight and she had paled again. Since paling 4 days ago, I have only been feeding her par boiled peas and Nori seaweed (in fact that is all she will accept). She acts basically normal- but much less of an appetite. She energetically comes for food but goes to back of tank to eat her peas and is a while before she comes back looking for more. The male is completely normal, color, activity, and hunger.
Since the polluted water business I have been much more attentive to the water quality. I keep the pH around the 7.0 level with a bit of baking soda as needed and have vacuumed and water changed since she paled to ensure the water was not the problem. I tried to purchase a nitrate test kit form the local pet store but was shamed out of it “you don’t need that for fresh water” I did order it on line- but it won’t be in for another day or so.
<Not the most helpful aquarium shop, but broadly, if you've got a lightly to medium stocked tank with standard community fish (tetras and whatnot) and do regular water changes, then yes, nitrate is something you probably don't have to worry about. Cichlids, unfortunately, are sensitive to nitrate, which makes a nitrate test kit more useful.>
I have read on your site to add Epsom salts, but am horrified that I will add the wrong kind or too much or that all the changes will add increased adjustment issues for her. Should I just use regular Epsom salts from my local pharmacy or is there a different kind? I added about 4 tbl “API aquarium salt “ but water changed ½ out and am now nervous to add more.
<Epsom Salt, used correctly, is not dangerous. Pharmacy grade stuff should be excellent. The Epsom Salt section is towards the end of this article:
Follow the links to examples of situations where Epsom Salt has been useful.>
Please advise- the longer this goes on the more worried I become. I am starting to worry that she has a bacterial gut infection that has just been brewing since the horrid water.
<The problem for you is that Hexamita is another threat to cichlids, and often triggered into a flare-up by high nitrate levels. Some argue Hexamita lurks in all cichlids, but provided they're not stressed, it's not an issue. Don't know if this is true, but certainly keep an eye for things like lack of appetite, lack of colour, and especially white stringy faeces and the development of pits on the lateral line around the head and on the flanks.>
Also- I have never seen these fish poop. Ever- and I watch them all the time. The Pleco poops like a pro… but these parrots must do their business after lights out.
<In good shape, cichlid faeces are small pellets, easily missed, particularly if fed high protein, low fibre foods. Plecs, being bulk feeders, do indeed produce huge volumes of faeces because they're shoveling down a bunch of inedible stuff (such as wood and cellulose) alongside the stuff they actually digest. It's like comparing cats with cows; cats produce small quantities of waste because what they eat is mostly digestible; cows, on the other hand, take in a lot of poor quality foodstuff in the form of cellulose, so produce a heck of a lot more solid waste.>
Someone on your site referred to their Blood parrots as “water dogs” and that IS exactly how they seem to me… my water dogs. I just completely adore them. I am in deepest appreciation for any advice. Gratefully yours, Lisa W
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

Re constipated/bloated Blood Parrot       7/1/17
Neale, thank you for such a quick response!
My Blood Parrot remains unchanged. Continues to be pale, hangs out at the surface by the heater, eats (peas and nori seaweed) but much less appetite than norm, continues to interact with other BP but only in bursts.
<Oh dear.>
Regarding poops- I would be able to discount seeing longer white strings floating about.
<That's good.>
I see from the link you shared that I can safely add Epsom salt 1-3 tsp /5 gallons depending on severity.
I added 8 tsp for my 47 , not filled to the top, gallons. In the event that I am actually dealing with this "Hexamita" what course of action do you recommend?
<Oh, do read on WWM re: Hexamita and cichlids; you'll find many instances of this particular problem. Let me start you, here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/hexoctfwfs.htm
Follow the links for more.>
My local shop talked me into an API product "General Cure" which is combo Metronidazole 250mg and Praziquantel 75mg.
<This should do the trick! Praziquantel is a de-wormer. This particular product is not one I've used; the folks at WWM tend to recommend a Metronidazole plus antibiotic (Nitrofurans in particular) for best results.
But if the API product is handy, then I'd be happy using it.>
I have not administered ( was waiting for your response!)
Thank you Thank you Thank you ~warmest regards, Lisa-
<Good luck! Neale.>

ongoing Blood Parrot issue     7/7/17
Hello Crew-Neale,
Thank you for your previous information regarding my constipated and/or Hexamita 4 year old Blood Parrot. I have done what was advised. I've added Epsom salts(16 tsp for 47 gallons), have been feeding only par boiled peas,
Nori seaweed, and kelp pellets.(she has had a poor appetite) I also completed 2 dose tank treatment with API "General Cure" ( Metronidazole and Praziquantel- add treatment wait 48hrs add second treatment wait 48hrs
do water change25%) on Sunday 7/2(day of second treatment). My fish appeared much better by 7/3 - she regained all color, was active, and came for food. On Wednesday 7/5, she has started to pale again in spots and is
hiding. She will eat a pea if it is dropped directly in front of her, but otherwise very uninterested.
<Some fish will go for them quickly; others take a while. Starvation will help a bit here -- feel free to not feed for 1-2 weeks. No harm will be done. Remove uneaten food promptly, and fish generally get the hint that what's offered is dinner, and they can't be picky! Failing that, live brine shrimp and daphnia both have a laxative effect. Not the freeze-dried versions though! Maybe not so useful as peas, but both are more readily taken by fish that refuse peas.>
What do I do now? Her water is: pH 7.5, 80 degrees, nitrate around 20%. 47 gallons with another BP and an 11 year old Plec.
I have ordered more API general cure as well as Furan2 (which contains Nitrofurazone) from Amazon and should have in 2 days. Should I retreat???
<I would wait 7 days to see if the medicine you've used has had any effect, plus the Epsom salt/laxatives. If there's no sign of recovery after a week or so, then by all means re-medicate.>
Your help has been invaluable. Had she been a dog she would have been back to the vet's three times by now, but being a fish, I just sit and watch- not knowing what to do. I am in deepest appreciation of your continued assistance.
<You are most welcome. Treating fish can be difficult, and being smaller
animals, it's often "too late" by the time you see something amiss.>
Gratefully yours,
Lisa W
<Good luck! Neale.>


Blood Parrot -ongoing paleness
Dear Crew-Neale

I'm so sorry to be taking up so much of your time, as this is now my forth correspondence to you. To recap- I have a 47 gallon wedge tank inhabited by 2 (4year old) blood parrots and a Pleco(11 years old)on 5/25/17 became aware of over fed polluted tank- broke filter while cleaning, waited week for new filter (Eheim 2215).
<An effective and reliable if old-school unit.>
In the beginning male BP showed more stress than female until around 6/19 and then female became pale , hanging by heater and poor appetite. Male now fine, with no further issue. Pleco fine.
<Good and good.>
I have been keeping the water with Nitrate at or below 20%, pH 6.5-7.5
<Sounds fine, but would make the observation that pH 6.5-7.5 is an odd range, slipping between acid and alkaline. Parrot Cichlids, being Central American in origin, are best kept in medium hard, slightly alkaline water.>
6/29/17(per your advise) added 16 tsp Epsom salt and I treated tank with" API- General Cure"(Metronidazole 250mg and Praziquantel 75mg) which is a 2 dose product -treat wait 48 hr, 2nd treat wait 48 hrs, do 25% water change. I replaced nearly 50% of water and I replaced 8 tsp of Epsom salts at that time.
7/3/17- my female BP appeared much better dark orange color returned and was hungry!-
until 7/5 when she went pale again. Now no appetite (she will catch a skinless par boiled pea, chew for a few then spit out. I have been removing uneaten food immediately)
<Indeed, remove food, then wait and see. Is the female isolated from the male? If not, if they're together, what are their interactions like? Cichlids aren't 'nice' animals, and will sometimes bully weakened specimens.>
7/9/17- I began second round of API General Cure (waited a week between last treatment per your advise)
7/13/17-today- I did an almost 50% water change. My water, before change, was; nitrate <20% and pH 6.5 water temp 82. My water following change- nitrate between 5-10% and pH 7.0 .
<Do feel the water is a bit too warm, and a bit too acidic. I would aim to optimise -- use sodium bicarbonate to raise the pH and hardness (around 7.5 is an ideal pH) using a dosage of maybe 0.5 teaspoons per 5 US gallons. Experiment with buckets of water, and once you get something useful, do this for all new water changes. And yes, Epsom salt and sodium bicarbonate can be used together -- the first affects general hardness, the second affects carbonate hardness.>
What now? As you can see from photo- she is still pale, still hovers by heater, still with no appetite, but will swim to greet me at front of tank(occasionally)and will still harass the Pleco occasionally( she is not completely with out energy). Since I changed nearly half of water, how much Epsom salt should I replace(if any)?
<Replace added minerals pro rata -- per 5 gallons/20 litres, up to 1 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and up to 1 tablespoon Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate). So if your bucket contains 2.5 US gallons, then add up to 0.5 tsp sodium bicarb., and up to 0.5 tbsp Epsom salt, to that bucket of water. These minerals aren't 'used up' in any meaningful way, so you don't re-dose for the whole tank. Just the bucket or buckets of new water being added!>
What I see when I look at her is a pale fish with a slightly rounded abdomen(compared to male). Abdomen appears firm. Scales appear smooth. I do not see any visible fin, scale, or gill issues. I do not see white stringy poop- I do not see poop of any sort-and I have been watching. Well, I did see her pooping following the original application of Epsom salts(6/29/17) but none since.
Should I now treat with" API Furan 2"(Nitrofurazone 85mg)- If I do, will this product negatively impact my filter bacteria?
<It shouldn't do, but keep an eye on ammonia or nitrite levels, whichever test kit you have.>
Additional, not sure if this has any relevance but these BPs are a pair and up until this began routinely, about monthly, laid egg clutches( cleaned up nicely by Pleco).
<I bet!>
I know how difficult it must be to diagnosis and treat a fish by the information presented in writing . Please let me know if I can provide any more data or photos to assist you.
I am ,as always , so very grateful of your efforts. Thank you. ❤
Lisa W.
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Blood Parrot -ongoing paleness (RMF, any last-ditch ideas?)     7/23/17
Dear Crew-Neale
<Hello Lisa,>
I realize my Blood parrot is going to die, but I am in agony watching it.
<Understood, and I sympathise with your situation.>
She BP is still alive and still relatively active (considering). She looks like she is working harder to breath than the healthy male, gills opening wider and faster. She is still pale, still refusing food, still bloated but still with smooth scales. She usually just hangs out by the heater. My water perimeters are spot on. To answer your question about aggression from other BP- he occasionally hassles her- but it is infrequent. I scooped her up ( very surprised at how "spiny" her fins are!)
<Oh, yes; a major defence that cichlids have against their predators.>
her bloated abdomen is firm ( I was very gentle )
<Does sound like Dropsy; can you medicate with an antibiotic? Ideally, antibiotic food, as that's the best way to deliver such medicine into aquarium fishes. Various commercial products of this type available in the USA. Most other places, a vet will need to help.>
I don't understand why a couple of weeks ago she returned to normal color and activity and even ate with vigor.
<Nor I. The problem with diagnosing sick fish via the internet, or even as an aquarist, is that real diagnosis is done using tissue samples and microscopy. What we're attempting here is what a GP would achieve if you were sick, but only able to give symptoms over the telephone. Better than nothing, sure, but still approximations based on experience and the law of averages. So while we're pretty good much of the time, there will be situations where a fish doesn't suffer from "the usual suspects" and our best guess approach isn't going to help.>
Now she might be over by front of tank and when I feed the other BP she swims away -over to heater .
<Sometimes sick fish will seek out warmer water; comparable to running a fever in cold-blooded animals. Presumably stresses the metabolism of their pathogens, as fevers do for us, hoping their own enzymes and cellular
processes are able to tolerate high temperatures better.>
I was wondering if since fish don't swallow the tank water which can be treated, and since she is not eating, could I make up a solution of Nitrofurazone 85 mg per packet and syringe it into her mouth.
<Nope. Adding antibiotic to the water will be taken up via the gills, and in any event, in freshwater situations, fish are continually soaking in water from their environment because their tissues are more 'salty' than the surrounding water. Their bodies aren't watertight (like ours are) so anything in their environment will, by definition, diffuse into their tissues if it can. That said, this approach is very rough and ready, which is why vets prefer to administer antibiotics in known concentrations via foods or, exceptionally, injections. Aquarists lack the skill and tools for
the later, and the former isn't always an option if the fish is not eating, hence we fall back on the adding medicines to the water approach instead.>
The problem with this idea is that I have no idea what ration of sterile water to powder I should use. The packets directions state 1 envelope per 10 gallons. The product I have available its "API- Furan-2". It is designed to treat a tank.
<I would always (unless you're a vet) recommend you go with the manufacturers instructions.>
Is there anything to be done? To refresh your memory this all began with an overfed-polluted tank (the pollution was event rather than a "life style"- though they lived with nitrates higher than 20% previously-I water changed
and fed cautiously) I'm sorry to keep taking up your time.
<Not a problem.>
Gratefully yours-
Lisa W
<Good luck, Neale. Will appeal to RMF for his insight, if any.>
<<The Furan compound is what I would use (25 mg/gal, change half the water, retreat every three days, three times) and Epsom Salt. BobF>>

Re: Blood Parrot -ongoing paleness (RMF, any last-ditch ideas?); plus Furan cpd. use f'     7/24/17
Neale & Bob,
Thank you for this info. Let me see if I understand it correctly; I have a 47 gallon tank. You are advising that I dose furan compound at 1175 mg. The API Furan2 doses 85 mg/packet- I will need just over 13 packets. I will add the antibiotic- wait 3 days and change half the water.
I will than do the exact same thing 2 more times.
Should I add new dose of furan the same day as water change?
Re Epsom salt; If I change 50% water how much Epsom salt do I replace for 47 g? (approx 16 tsp in prior to water change) and shall I add the amount you recommend following each subsequent water change?
<Add half, 8 tsp., per the half of water removed/replaced>
I actually added Furan2 dose per packet instructions last evening ( 425mg ). I will add the remaining 750mg today. I am leaving now to locate more antibiotic This dose far exceeds the package directions.
<Mmm... as per here?
I completely trust your advise but just to be sure, this dose will not be too much for my healthy male?
<Hopefully not... You've read over the MSDS for this API product?
<Lisa; I am concerned re the concentration of Nifurpirinols in this product as well. I advise going with the manufacturers dosing instructions. Bob Fenner>
I am sorry to require such defined instruction, but the devil is in the details.... I am so grateful for your advise and assistance, thank you for patience with me.
Lisa W
p.s. it is hard to believe that I have kept these lovely fishes alive and well these past 4 years with out issue, when I now feel so very incompetent.
<This "cross" has many issues... too much inbreeding... Bob Fenner>

Re: Blood Parrot -ongoing paleness (RMF, any last-ditch ideas?)     7/25/17
Thank you Bob and Neale!
<Hello again Lisa, and you're most welcome.>
You have given me some hope that she may recover. I feel like, in the least, I am "doing all I can". Thank you again for your patience (Neale )
I have been boring you the details of our plight for over a month! I can honestly say that I have learned a tremendous amount regarding tank hygiene and water perimeters, my male BP will benefit greatly (as I hope I will be able to say she will as well!) You are the best:)
<We certainly try!>
I will keep you posted on her progress,
<Please do.>
Ever gratefully yours
Lisa W
<Good luck, to you and your fish. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Blood Parrot -ongoing paleness (RMF, any last-ditch ideas?)<<I would stop "treating">>  7/27/17
Hello Neale and Bob!
I think things are improving. Last evening was the 4th and final dose of Furan-2(each dose = 425mg Nitrofurazone). Today my female, though continues to be pale, ate for the first time in over a week (thawed) frozen Hikari brand Krill. Last evening I noted her pooping( brown pellets attached by what appears to be a mucus strand). Her behavior is more energetic and more within her usual with some tossing about of rocks and
visiting me at front of tank.
<All sounds good.>
What next? The Furan-2 directions states "treatment may be repeated if necessary" Should I begin second round of 4 dose treatment?
<Personally, I'd wait a couple days to see if things continue to improve on their own; but there should be no harm done beginning another course of medication immediately afterwards.>
Should I re-dose API General Cure-Metronidazole 1,250 mg/dose ( this would be a third round- the last given 2 weeks ago)
Should I add both together?
<Metronidazole and Nitrofurazone work well together; indeed, the combo is "standard operating procedure" for medicating cichlids suffering from Hexamita.>
Should I do nothing?
<See above.>
FYI-My ammonia level today (pre-water change) is climbing a bit and is now somewhere between .25 and .50% and Nitrate remains around 20. Tank water is due to be changed at 8pm tonight.
<You MUST keep ammonia down, e.g., by substantial water changes prior to each daily dose of medication -- no point changing the water after you add the medication, as you can well imagine. On the other hand, after 24 hours
most medication will have done its work, and been broken down by the microbes, so a water change 24 hours after adding medication usually does no harm. Alternatively, use commercial ammonia remover (such as Zeolite)
and/or reduce food input to ensure ammonia stays low/zero.>
With kindest regards...and ongoing gratitude,
Lisa W
<Good luck! Neale.>

update     8/2/17
hello. I am sending you an update on my ailing BP. It has been exactly 1 week since the final Nitrofurazone treatment. My girl is acting and eating more normally.
<Good news!>
She remains pale. I am continuing to check water perimeters and water changes weekly.
<Excellent; subdued lighting and a diverse diet with crustaceans and algae will help restore colours, but to some extent she may be showing subdued colours simply because she's unwell. Cichlids do this to communicate to
other cichlids that they aren't engaged in territorial or breeding activity, which means that fish that are engaged in such don't waste time interacting with them. Or so I believe! Once recovered she should regain her normal colours.>
Do you recommend that I continue to monitor or do you feel I should begin another round of Metronidazole? It has been 3 weeks since last treatment?
<If she's eating normally now, yes, I would keep tabs on water quality, but no, I wouldn't do another round of medication just yet. I'd wait at least another week, but if she's healing under her own steam, and eating
adequately, her immune system should be able to finish the job. She's out of intensive care, and moving into recovery!>
Your guidance has been invaluable. I feel as though I have a new friend across the Atlantic. Thank you.
Lisa W
<You are most welcome, and thanks for the kind words. Neale.>

Blood Parrot remains pale       8/9/17
Hello Crew-Neale
Yes , it is me AGAIN. I am terribly sorry to be a continued bother. My BP remains pale and relatively listless, continuing to spend time by heater but will come to front of tank for food.
<Where there's feeding, there's hope!>
She has refused all pelleted foods (will take in but spits out), will accept an occasional pea but mostly eats Hikari frozen brine shrimp. (
Hikari's 3-step sterilization process ensures unequalled product quality.
<I agree; Hikari foods are consistently excellent. There are other good brands out there, but they are my personal favourite brand.>
Free of parasites, harmful bacteria, and foul odor, Bio-Pure frozen diets are another example of Hikari's product quality commitment. Packed in pure water and available in "no touch" cube packs or flat packs, Bio-Pure frozen
foods provide maximum nutrition with minimum mess to you when feeding.)
<Of course the environments where many fish feed are less than pristine, but I agree with you that we don't think about the quality of fish food as much as we should. There's some speculation that bloodworms are really no safer than Tubifex are, and both should be avoided. Brine shrimps are probably the safest food because they come from briny lakes where fish, and therefore their pathogens, cannot live.>
It has been 2 weeks since last Nitrofurazone treatment. Water perimeters are within what you have advised. I have been doing weekly water changes of
30%-50%. Do you recommend I treat again?
<If she's still feeding, and not obviously getting worse, I would not treat just yet.
I would vary diet as much as practical, perhaps using vitamin supplements if available (often sold for marine fish, but perfectly safe
for freshwater fish) or else using "enriched" brine shrimps that contain things like Spirulina algae.>
Would you advise me to treat concurrently with both Metronidazole and Nitrofurazone products ( would be API "Cure All " and API "Furan 2"-the package directions for both medications, regarding dosing and water changing, match up nicely)?
<I would indeed use both medications as/when. They seem to work very well together.>
Keeping in mind I have a healthy Pleco and male BP in tank.
<Quite so; but these medications shouldn't harm healthy fish -- although I wouldn't overuse medications if the fish is healing itself, even if only very slowly.>
I am ever grateful for you ongoing assistance.
Lisa W
<Welcome. Neale.>

Please HELP! Our red parrot fish got white stuff.        8/14/16
<Hi there>
Can you please identify the white bit on our parrot fish body (pictured) and advise me of how to cure her?
<Mmm; no photo/s attached. Please resend after perusing what we (WWM) have archived re Parrotfish care>
She has been with this for weeks, and it seems growing.
We change her water in two weeks usually. The water parameters are normal.
<Change? How much... Normal? Need data; not subjective evaluation.
The reading. Bob Fenner>

Re: Please HELP! Our red parrot fish got white stuff. In a five gal. bowl: Env.       8/15/16
>Mmm; no photo/s attached.
Really? Sorry for this. I attach the photos again.
<Thank you>
>Change? How much... Normal? Need data; not subjective evaluation.
10 litres, a half of the total amount.
<Yeeikes! This fish is in a 20 litre bowl? Trouble... PLEASE read here:
and the linked files above: Especially "Systems" and "Environmental Disease" FAQs files. Bob Fenner>
Thank you in advance,

please help - parrot fish sick after laying eggs; env., soc.         4/7/16
Hi there,
we have a fresh water aquarium with African cichlids, some gourami's and some loaches.
<An odd mix; there's really no such thing as "African cichlids" any more than saying "American birds" or "European mammals". It's much too general to mean anything helpful. However, the standard "mixed African cichlids" of
the US aquarium trade are the Mbuna, typically Pseudotropheus hybrids.
While these herbivorous fish appreciate similar water chemistry to your Parrots, they are MUCH too aggressive, and fighting/stress can cause all sorts of problems in mixed species set-ups.>
Our favourite two fish are a male and female parrot fish.
<These hopelessly inbred and deformed fish are not good companions for more boisterous cichlids. If you love 'em, move 'em. A 55-gallon tank is adequate for a pair. Alternatively, remove the Mbuna.>
They just bred a few days ago and the female named Sophie was in her hiding place guarding over her eggs. A few days later now and the male is protecting the eggs while Sophie is lying at the bottom of the tank on the opposite corner looking very weak and like she may die if we don't help her quickly.
<You MUST isolate/remove the female. See below...>
This also happened straight after we did a 40% water change.
<This could have been the trigger, or aggression from the other fish.
Here's the deal. Cichlid pairs depend on the situation. In the wild they carefully choose partners, and before spawning, do all sorts of "tests" on each other to see if they're both equally competent. This is all part of the courtship ritual. Those cichlids that aren't able to pair off, spawn and look after their juveniles properly will leave fewer, if any, offspring when compared to competent ones. So over time, natural selection favours the skilful cichlids. Now, on fish farms cichlids don't get to choose partners, and it doesn't matter if they're good parents or not because the human removes the eggs and rears the fry manually. All good stuff for producing cheap livestock, but does mean natural selection can't operate.
Over the generations tank-bred, and especially those non-natural, invented cichlids like Parrots end up losing the good parenting genes. This is a massive issue with Angelfish, which are almost all totally incompetent parents! But in any case, it doesn't take much for pairs of Parrots to become dysfunctional (like yours) turning on each other. Sometimes a triggering factor, basically a stress or scare, caused the breakdown in marital bliss. But it might have happened anyway.>
We also can see a snail floating at the top which we have never seen before.
<Probably not relevant.>
I have attached two pictures of Sophie sitting at the bottom and one of the Male parrot guarding eggs inside the hiding place.
I don't know hat your response rate is but if you can please give us some advice how to help her we would very much appreciate that as she is our favourite little fish.
Thank you
<I would remove the female to her own aquarium where she can recover; it's extremely unlikely the male will accept her now he's parenting on his own, and chances are he'll become even more aggressive once the fry start hatching and roving around the tank. If she's bloated, which I can't tell from the photo, medicating with Epsom salt will be useful. Do read:
Hope this helps, Neale.>


Re: please help - parrot fish sick after laying eggs       4/7/16
Hi Neale,
Thank you for your swift response. She has gone back to her eggs and they are both together in there, he is busy keeping fish away from the eggs and she is inside helping him do so. We have no idea if the eggs will hatch, we
will give it a day or two further as the eggs have been there for about four days so far. If they hatch we will move them and her to another tank.
If not, we will get rid of the eggs and hope everything goes back to normal.
<They aren't especially fertile fish, and breeding at home tends to be unproductive. But then again, I just said they're unlikely to "mend their marriage" and yet they've don exactly that, so what do I know? I would, however, keep a very close eye on them. I would not assume they'll be happily married indefinitely.>
In terms of using Epsom salts, we have a 132 gallon tank, with what we know to be called Malawi cichlids who are all babies and not aggressive to the parrot fish who are much bigger.
<Juvenile Mbuna can be quite fun, for sure. And there are one or two species that might conceivably work with Parrots; I'm thinking of Iodotropheus and Labidochromis in particular. But most are psychotic when mature, in the sense of being intensely territorial and ravenously hungry (they feed on algae all day long in the wild, and defend their feeding spots against all comers). I've seen even Labidochromis, the "friendly Mbuna", strip the fins from much larger Senegal Bichirs unlucky enough to be in the same tank. So do NOT assume yours will stay friendly! I'm trying
to think who said it, but "trust everyone, but carry a big stick" is a good approach with cichlids generally, and doubly so with Mbuna. On the other hand, if these aren't Mbuna, but instead things like Aulonocara or Cyrtocara, then Parrots might work, given space.>
(Malawi cichlids very popular here as we are in South Africa and border with Malawi) ...
<I'm distinctly jealous! Some great native South African fish too...>
Can we put Epsom salts into the tank with these two cichlids, Gouramis and clown loaches?
If so, how much do we put?
<See the article for details; 1-3 teaspoons per 5 gallons/20 litres.>
We were thinking of doing so just for the general health of the tank, is that a good idea?
<Nope. Use Epsom salt to medicate (it's good for reducing swelling) but not forever. Only until the swelling goes down. Remember, add the appropriate amount per bucket of water; don't dose the whole tank each water change or
you'll overdose! So if you change 20 litres, 1-3 teaspoons is what you'll use. Not the number of teaspoons for the whole tank. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: please help - parrot fish sick after laying eggs       4/7/16

Great, thanks Neale, really appreciate your swift response. All the best
<Most welcome. Neale.>

Blood Parrot Cichlid trouble       1/1/14
<Hello Marie,>
I have two blood parrot cichlids that are 6yrs. old in a 75 gallon tank with a 110 gallon Fluval filter
<Which filter is this? Do understand the Fluval 110 is rated for a 110 *litre* aquarium, or about 30 US gallons. The biggest of their classic canister filters, the Fluval 405, is rated for 100 US gallons, while the huge Fluval FX5 is rated for 400 gallons. The Fluval C4 is the biggest of their hang-on-the-back filters, and it's rated for up to 70 gallons (but do see my notes below about these ratings as they're misleading in many situations, applying only to tanks lightly stocked with small fish, and the bigger the fish and/or the higher the stocking density, the smaller the aquarium these filters would be useful for).>
and do regular water changes, change the carbon and all one at a time to avoid erasing all the good bacteria. This fish has been getting sick on and off since I got her but it was never anything too serious, just that she would get really pale but she always bounced back. I recently moved and she began to lose balance after water changes starting about 3 months ago (moved around 9 months ago). Each time this happened I would try to get her to eat thawed, shelled peas, but she wouldn't go near them so I changed her food from cichlid pellets and peas to . Each time it got so bad that I had to give her a salt bath and it worked very well, except for this last time because she never got her balance back. It has been almost three weeks and I am feeling really bad for her, the other cichlid however, is in seemingly great health.
The only symptoms are loss of balance, slightly swollen belly, what looks like a curved spine, and just today I noticed a sore on her underside near her bottom. I am assuming that she has to be eating something even though during feeding time she can never make it to the surface. I tried soaking the food in water and mixing it with peas, hand feeding it to her, etc. but I have not seen her actually ingest any.
<Indeed. These symptoms all sounds fairly generic. So rather than a particular disease, the combination of symptoms (like swelling and poor balance) suggest some sort of chronic stress. The curved spine *might* be genetic (these cichlids being very inbred) but it could also be a sign of environmental stress and/or poor diet.
Ulcers are sometimes associated with particular diseases, but more often than not they're an opportunistic bacterial infection brought about by environmental stress alongside physical damage. In any case, I would certainly be looking at the aquarium to find out if there's something wrong with how it was set up and/or maintained.>
First I tried treating for Ich because I had noticed a few white spots on her belly, after not seeing any recovery signs, I did a 50% water change and waited a day. Then I treated with Maracyn Two and CopperSafe, which seemed to make it even worse.
<Indeed; copper-based medications are poisons, and while they can be used with success, they sometimes harm any "patients" already stressed in some way. Maracyn should be safe though. With all medications, remember to remove carbon from the filer before use, otherwise the medication will be removed before doing anything useful.>
With no luck I asked PetSmart for help.
<Not always the best place, though this depends, and some "big box" pet store employees are excellent. By default, listen to them, but verify independently, e.g., by looking at an aquarium book. Better information will come from aquarium fish clubs -- many cities and states in the US for example have them.>
They suggested Marimo moss balls and something called Nitrazorb.
<Neither relevant here, though lowering nitrate is always a good idea in cichlid aquaria.>
I removed the Nitrazorb b/c it didn't work and left the moss balls in the tank. I noticed that my Ph was a very acidic 6.0, so I tried raising it with no luck. Not knowing it was a terrible thing, I then read baking soda was a good way to raise Ph and when I checked it afterward, it has zoomed all the way to past a 7.6. Two nights ago I finally got it within their range at 7.2 and ever since it has been stable. I had never tested for nitrites or nitrates because I never had any problems but after those medicines didn't work I went and bought kits for Nitrate, nitrite and anything else I could find. Here is what the results said:
from 12/16/13
General Hardness: 180GH (10dph?)
Carbonate hardness: 80
Ph: 6.0

No2: 0.5
<This is your problem.
Do also check ammonia, it likely isn't zero. In any case, a non-zero nitrite level indicates filtration isn't adequate for the size/number of fish and/or you are overfeeding. Review, and act
No3: 80 (I bought Nitrazorb to try and fix this)
<Nitrate should be 20 mg/l
or less for cichlid tanks, and certainly not more than 40 mg/l if at all possible. Substantial water changes will help here. Large cichlids are generally too big and messy for nitrate-removing media (like Nitrazorb) to be economical. On the other hand, floating plants under bright light, such as the classic Indian Fern (Ceratopteris thalictroides) can be useful as well as cheap. If you have enough light, the plants will grow so fast you'll be cropping them every week or two, removing substantial amounts of nitrate in the process.>
I tried ammonia remover in case it was ammonia poisoning. The next day I bought an ammonia kit, and from  12/16 until today (12/31) the water has tested at 0-.25. If it goes beyond zero, I add the ammonia remover.
<Again, not economical in the long term. Ammonia and nitrite are fixed by better filtration. Nitrate is fixed by water changes.>
I also tested my tap water before treating it
General Hardness: 30
Carbonate Hardness: 40
Ph: b/w 6.0 and 6.5
Nitrite: 0-0.5
Nitrate: 20
<This water sounds pretty good, except it's far too soft for Central American cichlids.>
I ran out of test strips and did not get any more because although the tests showed that my nitrates were way high, I couldn't find any info other than water changes on how to lower them. Before the test, I had already done three 25% water changes that week and I didn't think it was a good idea to keep going with it because I didn't want to mess with the cycle. My last ditch effort was to treat with KanaPlex, which I have had success with in similar situations with this cichlid, but that also failed to yield any results.
<At this point it sounds like you're throwing money away. 99% of fish problems are environmental, and if you find nitrite and/or ammonia aren't zero, then the thing to look at is the FILTER. Sounds to me like the tank is under-filtered. Ignore the "aquarium size" ratings for filters when it comes to cichlids. Those ratings assume best-case scenarios, i.e., community tanks stocked with small fish like Neons and Guppies. A Neon tetra is what, maybe an inch long. A Blood Parrot is nearer 8 inches long when full grown. So do you think a Blood Parrot needs 8 times more filtration? Nope! A Blood Parrot 8 inches long will actually have something like 512 times the mass of a Neon because it might be 8 times longer but will be 8 x 8 x 8 times the volume. In reality it doesn't work quite like this, but clearly a Blood Parrot makes A LOT more mess than a Neon, and you can see that just by the amount of food that goes into the Blood Parrot and the amount of muck that comes out! In real terms, with big fish you want a filter rated at 6-8 times the volume of the tank per hour, which for a 75-gallon tank means up to 8 x 75 = 600 gallons/hour. To give you some context to that, the Fluval C4 has a turnover of 264 gallons/hour, while the Fluval 405 is rated at 340 gallons/hour. Realistically, a tank like yours would need two large canister filters (such as two Fluval 405 filters) or equivalent-sized hang-on-the-back or internal filters. Before you ask, no, I don't know why the fish have been fine for X years but only now got sick. Often, that's the way these things work, same reasons people don't get sick immediately they're exposed to something, but may take months or years to develop and finally "push them over the line" from healthiness into sickness. But old aquaria do tend to have problems of their own, particularly as filters age and media needs replacing (but hasn't been) and fish get bigger (and messier) while also become more sensitive as they get older.>
I finally decided to e-mail you because this fish means a lot to me and the other fish that I have is obviously worried about her too. I know that you may not be able to give me any answers but my real question is whether or not I should put her down, and if so what is the most humane way? She is fighting so hard that I would do anything to help chance of her survival, but I get the feeling she is in a lot of pain and if there isn't a chance I also don't think for her sake, that I can watch this play out either.
<A vet-approved and humane method of killing uses aquarium water in a container into which is mixed 30 drops of clove oil ("Eugenol", cheap, from drugstores) per litre of water. Stir well, then immerse the fish and hold it down with a net. The fish will become sedated quickly, and should be dead within a few minutes. I like to leave fish in the dark while doing this to reduce stress (a towel over the bucket works nicely). Good idea is to leave the fish for 20-30 minutes to make sure it's dead before doing anything to the body.>
Sorry that there is so much info being thrown at you all at once but any advice you can give will help and thank you for your time.
<Let me direct you to two relevant articles:
Likely fixing things (or at least preventing further losses) will come down to [a] more filtration plus more water changes, and [b] improving water chemistry, for example by using the Rift Valley salt mix at 50% the quoted dose to all additions of new water to the tank (don't try and "improve" water chemistry in one fell swoop as that'll simply make the fish even more stress.>
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Blood Parrot Cichlid trouble     1/4/14
Thank you such much for all of the info you gave.
I did remove my carbon for all of the medicines.
I think I gave you the wrong filter information before.
I am unsure if it is right or not but I was under the impression that Fluval bought out aqua clear.
<Are both distributed by the same parent company, Hagen.>
I bought my filter an few years ago and it is actually called "AquaClear 110"
<This filter has a flow rate of 500 gallons/hour. Since your tank has a capacity of 75 gallons, that's 500/75 = 6.6 times the volume of the tank per hour. I'd suggest that is a bit low for a big, messy cichlid, though perfectly adequate for small fish like Neons and Guppies.>
but when I could no longer find the AquaClear inserts, or anything AquaClear for that matter, I assumed that they were bought out.
<Aquaclear filters are still available, and replacement media sold as well.
Took me no time at all to find on Amazon.com for example.>
Since I stopped seeing AquaClear everywhere I started buying Fluval the 110 carbon, ammonia, and all from Fluval.
<I would recommend getting filter media design for a specific filter.
Potentially, the wrong size/shape filter media allows water to flow through any empty spaces without going through the media itself. That means the bacteria don't clean that portion of the water flow. Obviously that diminishes the effectiveness of the filter. To be fair, with an unpressurised filter like a hang-on-the-back filter this effect is probably not that great because of the way water sluices into the top of the filter and down through the filter bed. But if you have a filter, you may as well aim to get the best from it.>
I can imagine this is what has been causing the issues in the tank.
<I disagree, and don't believe that this is the main problem.>
I do agree with you on getting a second filter, sounds like a good idea, but I was wondering if u know what brand inserts are equivalent to the AquaClear ones that i used to buy?
<See above.>
This way I can avoid having to buy two new filters.
<Not sure I understand. What you want is a second filter alongside the existing one. Even a simple internal canister such as the Eheim Powerline Internal Filter 2048 ($65 on Amazon) would actually be well worthwhile. I like the Eheim filters because they are extremely reliable and Eheim keep selling similar models for years, decades at a time! So spare filter inserts are easy to get (and in case, the sponges are good quality and last 10-20 years without problems). Fluval and Aquaclear are typical second-tier made-in-China brands when it comes to reliability, and while I'd happily use either if money was tight, the German brand is definitely better -- quieter and more reliable -- so well worth the premium price.>
Also I attached some photos just in case you see something I don't.
<Looks a nice tank to me, so nothing obviously amiss.>
I read up on those links you gave and it sounds like a Hexamita infection to me,
<Hexamita infections usually have a very obvious symptom: white, stringy faeces being extremely indicative of the gut parasites irritating the large intestine. Also lethargy, odd changes to the colouration, hiding, lack of interest in food, eventually fish become moribund, drifting about until they die.>
but I was wondering if you thought that a second filter would really bring her back?
<In and of itself, unlikely, but it would reduce ammonia and nitrite to zero. But my gut feeling is that there is some other stress factor here, perhaps long-term exposure to nitrate, cichlids being very sensitive to "skipped" water changes and the resulting old, nitrate-rich water.
Oxygenation is also important.>
If you thought that it would, I would go get a new one today, otherwise I would wait a week or two but it seems very time sensitive.
<Agreed, but I doubt waiting a few days for Amazon or whoever to deliver will make/break this tank.>
Also thanks for the link with the recipe for the rift valley salt mix, I will definitely mix some up today after a water change.
<Wise; low pH levels, anything below 7, will quickly stress Central American cichlids.>
I will look for better food as well I may be overfeeding them,
<For sure! This looks like a very fat cichlid. But it might also be Dropsy, in which case medication would be required. For what it's worth, I'd take a broad approach here and treat using Metronidazole plus an antibiotic (Nitrofuran or Kanamycin are often used with cichlids). The combination makes a good one-two punch, the first medication dealing with Hexamita, while the second deals with any systemic bacterial infections. It's a widely used approach with cichlids that are sick but for reasons difficult to pin down.>
how much should they eat?
<A good ball park estimate is a portion the size of the eye per meal. This is about right for pretty much every fish. Your sort of fish, a big cichlid, probably only needs a single meal per day. If given the right amount fish should look lean, and the belly should have only a very slight convex curve to it. If the fish looks like it's swallowed a ball, it's been overfed!>
The picture of the ammonia remover is the Fluval 110 that I am currently using, I'm guessing it's wrong
<It's fine but not particularly useful. If you have ammonia in the tank, it's better to use biological filtration to remove it. But short term, this may help over the next week or two. Do remember ammonia remover (zeolite) doesn't last long; refer to the instructions regarding replacement and/or recharging.>
so I'm trying to find a different brand but thought I'd attach it just in case. I am going to get a second filter today. Also I have had my filter for about 3 years now, could it be worn out?
<Unlikely but easy to tell. If the motorised pump is spinning and water is moving at the appropriate rate, it's probably fine. Some very cheap filters have short lives, 2-3 years, but Fluval and Aquaclear filters are reasonably good and should last 10 years if not longer, and usually what goes wrong isn't the pump but accessories such as hoses and taps that start leaking and need replacing.>
Thanks again for your time. Marie
<Most welcome. Neale.>

Re: Blood Parrot Cichlid trouble      1/8/14
Thank you again for everything, your e-mails were very helpful.
<Most welcome.>
I have been doing 25 % water changes every other day and I plan to continue that now that I know how important it is to the water quality. I will definitely look into the Eheim filter you mentioned. Honestly, when I was shopping for a new filter the Fluval filters didn't seem worth the money when compared to others that I saw so thanks for the suggestion on the German filter.
<Definitely worth the somewhat higher price, especially where big, messy fish are concerned. Do have a look at reviews online though and come to your own conclusions.>
I do not think my fish has a chance,
<Ah, that's not good news.>
everywhere seems to be out of clove oil, so I've ordered some online.
<I see.>
Thank you for your explanation on how to go about that.
<Ah, yes: 30 drops in a litre of aquarium water. Stir. Immerse fish. Wait 20-30 min.s to be sure.>
Again, I really appreciate your help and that you make yourself available for people like me.
<Good luck with your future fishkeeping. Cheers, Neale.>

Parrot Cichlids in trouble...
Parrot Cichlids Sick After Tank Cleaning  6/8/10

Hi there, I have two 7" Parrot Cichlids who were in a 40 gal tank with many other fish. They were crowded but doing great. So I had a chance to put them into a 60 gal tank and did so, changing over the substrate and rocks,
but I guess I cleaned it too thoroughly. Lost all but the two Parrots and a smaller blue cichlid, a white albino frog and several tiny but older Corydoras Catfish.
<Probably wiped out all the beneficial bacteria that provided the biological filtration.>

The two parrots are now barely breathing, hiding in their caves, or along the sides of the tank. Once in a while they seem to come out drift around and then go back like they feel like hell! I have checked the chemistry and it tested out OK in all regards, but the chemicals are old. Getting new tomorrow. Changed the water partially about 3 times because It got cloudier after the tank change.
< Probably ammonia spikes.>
Using a Fluval 300 (is it big enough or up to cleaning 60 gallons?) and two aerators running full tilt. If I give them a course of Metronidazole (thinking they probably now might have some bacterial infection, will the medicine harm the albino frog and the catfish? Temp in tank is/has been steady 75-80 degrees (even tested both "ends" of the larger tank)...substrate in the bottom is about an inch and a half in the new tank. Thanks for any help...I love these silly fish...
< Go with Dr Tim's "One and Only " to quickly replenish the bacterial you have washed away. You essentially have a new tank. Medications will only suppress any bacteria, good or bad. This tank starter can be found online at

Acne, Parrot Cichlid 5/14/10
I have a rather large Parrot Cichlid that recently sprouted what looks like pimples. It is otherwise healthy but the growths on it's head and face worry me. Could you please explain what this condition is and what I need to do to help my friend. Sincerely, Patrick
<Most likely "Hole in the Head" disease. Treatment is Metronidazole, sometimes known as Flagyl. In the US this may be available from your pet store; elsewhere it is usually a prescription-only drug that requires you to talk to your vet. Without treatment the fish WILL die. This DOES NOT get better by itself. http://wetwebmedia.com/metranidazole.htm Hole-in-the-Head is almost always caused by poor maintenance. In the case of cichlids, non-zero nitrate levels are commonly to blame, typically through over-stocking and not enough water changes. Do read on the needs of these hybrid cichlids, here:
Cheers, Neale.>

Blood Parrot Problems... env.  10/22/09
Found your website yesterday, newbie with gifted aquarium here, having some problems with my adopted Blood Parrots.
<Fire away!>
First, some background: Two medium size Blood Parrots, rescue fish from a relative, were swimming in 6 inches of water with no aeration, filtration, or food for approx. 10 days. They had been there under deteriorating conditions much longer than that. Tank had one large piece of driftwood and several large aquarium rocks (don't know what type) suitable for making caves. "Good" news was that the tank was 45 gal. with enough space for them to survive. Rinsed tank, rocks, wood, and gravel out with tap/hose water (bad move I think with hindsight and a little research, but at least I didn't use detergents), set up at my house with same wood, rocks, and gravel, treated tap water with AmQuel Plus from local pet store. One airstone in back right, heater in back right set to 76 degrees F initially.
Both Parrots were shy and retiring at first, but then started coming around quickly. After one week and no problems, added six 1.5" zebra Danios which the Parrots promptly ate four of, the remaining two must have been tops in their gene pool (no pun intended).
<Do bear in mind that the use of live fish as food isn't a good idea, and can cause a variety of problems. There's nothing to be done about accidents, but don't repeat the mistake by adding more feeder-sized fish.>

Fed both Danios and Parrots with goldfish flakes exclusively, approx. every 12 hours. No water changes (I didn't even know about water changes), no topping off, no gravel vac. No problems (or so I thought) with anything for the next two weeks.
Then, three days ago, I noticed the larger BP (approx. 5" long) staying in top left corner of tank, seemed to be breathing heavier than usual. Did a little reading (always a dangerous thing). Next day did approx. 33% water change treated with AmQuel Plus. Planted 5 groupings of Elodea/Anacharis (multiple strands in each grouping) at same time, partly for aesthetic reasons, partly as attempt at "natural" waste remover. Set heater to 78 degrees F. No change in larger BP behavior, but still responding to feeding and external motion (wiggling fingers, etc.). Smaller tugged a bit on some of the plants, maybe ate a very tiny portion. Bought Ammonia test kit and pH test kit (both API brand). Tested water, got ammonia reading of either 0 ppm or b/w 0 ppm and 0.25 ppm, exact color code was hard to tell.
<Typically, ammonia test kits go from a clear liquid (no ammonia) to steadily more coloured (as more ammonia is present). While ammonia becomes more toxic as concentrations go up, any ammonia above zero is dangerous. So if the test kit isn't registering zero, if there's any doubt at all that it isn't clear, then assume a problem.>
The pH test color coded at 7.6 (although it could have been higher and not registered, 7.6 was as high as the color chart went).
<Blood Parrots are just fine, indeed happiest, between pH 7.5 and 8.>
Next day noticed my other smaller (4") BP sidling up to larger in top left corner, thought maybe trying to stimulate it in some way. Later that same day then noticed both had gone down to bottom of tank and inserted themselves into a favorite cave slot, together. Larger BP was now lying on its side or leaning over at a 45 degree angle. Soon smaller one shifted to adjacent cave slot very near and turned itself completely sideways and shimmied into the slot. Today both still hanging out at bottom, larger either at 45 degrees, on side, or pointed down at various places in bottom of tank, also less responsive, made attempts to eat, then sank/swam back down to bottom and is staying there, on its side. Smaller BP more responsive, swimming around more, more interested in eating, but still inserted most of the time into various slots in the rocks. Danios still darting around with no problems. Went to local (non-chain) pet store, described behavior and setup, and was told to add something called TLC Super Water Conditioner as they used it in their tanks on a regular basis.
<Can't think of any reason why this would help. Provided you add water conditioner to each new bucket of water added to the tank, there's no obvious reason to add extra water conditioner between water changes. It doesn't do anything all that clever.>
Told to try to feed larger BP some water sprite to aid in digestion. Also told to vary diet with vegetables such as zucchini, shelled peas, and cichlid pellets.
<That's certainly good advice.>
My questions: What's wrong, obviously. I've quickly discovered that I've used up my knowledge base for this particular set of problems. This site has so much info just on BP treatment that I'm afraid to just pull out bits of recommendations that fit some of my symptoms. Did I kill all the beneficial bacteria with my cleaning and hit an ammonia spike with the aquarium trying to cycle back to normal?
<Probably not. Unless you put old media under a very hot tap or clean with something like detergent, the bacteria are generally quite tough. They might be knocked back by certain things, like being left in a switched-off filter for a few hours, but they normally bounce back. That said, if you detect non-zero levels of ammonia, and recently did something to the filter, then it may well take a few days, perhaps a week, for the bacterial population to grow back to its original level. In the meantime, cut back (maybe, stop) feeding and do some extra little water changes, 10-25%, every day or two through the week.>
I bought/was sold a sponge filter today but haven't put it in yet as I 'm unsure (obviously) about starting a new bacteria process without addressing the existing problems.
<Don't replace all the filter media at once. But it is safe to replace up to half the filter media per 6 weeks. Why 6 weeks? Because that's how long it'll take for the bacteria on the old half of the media to colonise the new half of the filter media.>
Did they get constipated from exclusively eating the wrong food?
<Can happen. Green foods like peas, plus live foods with lots of chitin (live brine shrimps and live daphnia) work great as laxatives. Don't use any dried foods at all, since these have the reverse effect, obviously.
(Think what would happen if you just ate dried beef jerky...)
Can they be showing excess ammonia symptoms with it being so close to zero?
<Yes; cichlids are extremely sensitive to ammonia.>
Don't I need to test for nitrate and nitrite amounts next, to determine if those levels are high?
<You could do. Personally, I consider the nitrite test kit the most useful.
By definition, if you have non-zero nitrite, then the ammonia half of the biological cycle must be happening. By contrast, you can get ammonia from tap water, in which it tells you nothing about the filter. Furthermore, an immature filter may produce lots of ammonia but little/no nitrite. That said, either test kit is better than none at all.>
BTW, now I'm obsessively testing the water and still getting either 0 ppm or less than 0.25 ppm ammonia, I still can't make out color wise if it's reading zero or just slightly above zero, neither can other people I've asked to eyeball it. The pH is still reading 7.6 (or possibly higher).
<As I say, this pH is fine, provided the water is hard as well. Fish care rather more about hardness than pH. Blood Parrots want a hardness above 10 degrees dH, and a pH between 7.5 and 8.>
As an aside, I do agree with other posters/comments that the Blood Parrots do seem to have distinct personalities and I hope I haven't mucked things up for them so much as to be irreversible. This post sounds a bit long winded, but it seems you all need as much information as possible to make an informed analysis. Thanks for your time and help. Ed F.
<Hope this helps, Neale.>

Parrot Cichlids, beh.  -- 09/03/09
Hi there!
Sorry to ask a question very similar to another that's already been asked but I'm really worried about our two parrot cichlids.
They've always been pretty outgoing and spend a lot of time swimming up and down their tank as we walk through the room. Lately, however, they've become really nervous and dive for their hiding places to the point where they've almost knocked themselves out a couple of times.
<Can be various things. Most commonly environmental stress, so check ammonia, nitrite, temperature. Since these are basically Central American cichlids, you need to make sure the water isn't acidic or too soft, since both of these things will cause them to become skittish (and ill). Aim for a pH around 7.5 to 8, and 10-25 degrees dH. But other factors to consider are ambient noise, since this carries into fish tanks and scares them. Loud TV sets, slamming doors, general child-induced mayhem are all the kinds of things that make fish go loopy. Next up, think about sunlight. Direct sunlight isn't something most fish appreciated. On the whole, they like shady conditions. Have the fish grown much since you've bought them? These cichlids certainly need something around the 55 gallon/210 litre size upwards given their adult size of 8 inches/20 cm, and in small, cramped tanks fish become nervous. Finally, did you add anything to the tank?
Ornaments for example? Cute bubble-blowing mermaids might appeal to you, but some fish find them very distracting. Likewise additional air stones, new filters, etc.>
They are eating without problem, they're not lethargic, we've tested the water quality and all is well within range. We've tried changing the water as well. The tank isn't in direct sunlight and there's no exterior noise.
The temperate is 79 degrees.
They are sharing the tank with a Bottlenose Catfish and a Royal Whiptail - these are pretty small just now and certainly don't bother the Cichlids.
<Assume you mean a Bristlenose Catfish, and if that's the case, I agree, neither it nor a Whiptail should be causing problems. However, you get the odd specimen of some Loricariidae that takes to scraping the mucous off the flanks of large cichlids, typically Otocinclus but I've heard Hypostomus have pulled this stunt, too. If you see scratches on the sides of your fish, then that's a possibility.>
Could there be anything else that we could / should try? I would really appreciate your help.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Parrot Cichlids, hlth.-env.  9/5/09

Hello again!
Thanks very much for the advice.... I really appreciate you taking the time to reply.
<Not a problem.>
We've checked all of the levels, including ammonia, nitrate and temperature. Temperature was showing to be around 74 degrees so we've increased it a little.
<Good; around 25 C/77 F suits most cichlids well.>
The pH and water hardness is within limits.
<By which you mean a pH around 7.5, and hardness somewhere on the "moderate hard" to "hard" range? I mention this because acidification is one common reason fish become jittery. You might care to test the pH at different times of the day, at least before the lights go on and then at the end of the day. See if the pH is stable. This is more of an issue with tanks that have live plants than tanks without, because photosynthesis can have a profound impact on pH.>
There is minimal noise in the room - its mostly quiet as I tend to read rather than watch TV and there is no direct sunlight.
We've only had the fish for around 8 weeks and they've not really grown in that time.
<Surprised; in a couple months, juvenile cichlids should grow fairly substantially.>
The largest Parrot Cichlid is around 4 inches and we have two of them in a 180 litre tank. The catfish are just an inch or so, so pretty small at the moment. The only think we have added recently (about a month ago) is some wood which is especially for aquariums. We've a couple of plastic plants and a couple of ornaments which were in the tank at the aquatic centre where we bought them.
I did mean Bristlenose (oops!) and there's no sign of any scratches on the Cichlids. They are out and about in the tank at times but dive for cover when we walk past. This is really unusual behaviour for them as they
normally swim to the side of the tank when we walk past.
<Catfish often are jittery, especially in tanks with lights but little in the way of cover. By "cover" I mean things like floating plants; the odd rock or plastic plant won't do much to make a catfish feel secure. They
really need to be constantly covered by some source of shading.>
I'm really concerned because we did have 3 Bamboo Shrimp in the tank until a week or so ago and these seemed fine but died suddenly.
<These shrimps are sensitive to poor water quality, in particular a lack of oxygen, so review filtration. For Parrot Cichlids, I'd want a filtration system rated at 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. So
assuming a minimum suitable tank size of 55 gallons, this would be 6 x 55 = 330 gallons per hour. Check water circulation is adequate as well.
Hang-on-the-back filters for example tend to have the inlet and outlet close together, and a single unit is often a bad choice for big tanks. If you put a bit of flake on the substrate at the far end of the tank, does it
quickly get washed away, or does it kind of sit there? If the latter, you likely have poor circulation, and that means oxygen isn't being evenly distributed. For cichlids, there's a good argument for either having two or
more HOB filters, one at each end, or a big canister, with the inlet at one end and the spray bar at the other.>
Having checked everything in the tank and the water quality, etc, I am really at a loss as to what to try next.
<Honestly sounds like water quality issues. Try doing a nitrite test after feeding the fish, say, 30 minutes later. Check the nitrate as well. Have a look how clean the substrate it: if it's dirty, then filtration might not
be as good as you think, and oxygenation could be an issue because the lower level of the tank is receiving less circulation than it needs.>
We have taken water samples from the tank to the aquatic centre and they have confirmed that all of the levels are well within limits.
<Depends how they define "limits". A lot of test kits and retailers suppose "low" levels of ammonia and nitrite are safe, or at least tolerable. They are not. You MUST have ZERO ammonia and nitrite at all times, and for cichlids, the nitrate level should be well under 50 mg/l, and preferably less than 20 mg/l. For whatever reason, cichlids are peculiarly sensitive to nitrate, and while it doesn't kill them immediately, it does make them prone to diseases, particularly Hexamita and Hole-in-the-Head, neither of which are easily treatable but commonly fatal.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Parrot Cichlids 9/5/09

Hi there
<Hello again,>
We've done another test for General and Carbonate Hardness. The GH (General Hardness) is 2dH and Carbonate Hardness (KH) is 11dH.
<Odd combination. Are you sure these are right? It's important to understand that what aquarists call "hardness" isn't (usually) the total mineral content of the water, but selected bits of it. General hardness is
a measurement of (chiefly) calcium and magnesium salts, whereas carbonate hardness is specifically carbonate and bicarbonate salts. Adding the two gives you something called Total Hardness, and that's somewhat equivalent to the total mineral content of the water (Total Dissolved Solids, or TDS).
Anyway, my point is that your overall hardness is fairly high, and the carbonate hardness level at least is very high, and should secure very stable pH levels.>
Our pH levels can sometimes go up to 8 and so we've been adding 7.2 Buffer to the water on a regular basis.
<Ah, have you by chance been adding the buffering salt mix to tap water? Is your tap water passed through a domestic water softener? Or perhaps simply soft anyway? A pH-up buffer will typically raise the carbonate hardness since this is what maintains a basic (i.e., above 7) pH. However, adding pH buffers without fully understanding what you're doing and why can lead to problems.>
The pH is 7.4 currently. Its looking as though the water is way too soft.
<What's the hardness of your tap water, before you treat it?>
Might you possibly have some advice on how to redress the balance?
<What I suggest you do is have a read of this article:
About halfway down there's a recipe for Rift Valley salt mix. It raises both carbonate and general hardness, and fixes the pH nicely around 7.5 to 8. For Central American cichlids, like your Parrots, you should find a
half-dose ample, though the full dose would be fine too. Either way, it's very easy to make, costs pennies, and works better than adding buffers.>
Thank you so much for all your help. We really appreciate it.
Kind regards
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Parrot Cichlids, sys.  9/6/09

Hello again!
<Hi Debbie,>
We've tested our tap water and the GH is 15 dH. KH is 10 dH.
<Ideal for Parrot Cichlids.>
The pH of our tapwater is 7.5.
We don't have a water softener built in.
What we've been doing is adding 'Tap Safe' to the tap water and then adding the buffer to that water and storing it in containers so that we can change the water on a regular basis - we change the water at least once a week, sometimes more - could we be overdoing the water changes?
<Weekly water changes are fine for most fish. More than weekly can be good, provided water chemistry and temperature are stable. But if you're "noisy" when doing the changes, then overdoing such things might alarm them. That said, I don't find water changes stress fish unduly, and usually find them readily taking food again within an the hour.>
I'm wondering if we are stressing out the fish by changing the water too often?
<Doesn't seem terribly likely to me, to be honest. But there's an easy test: for the next month, do just weekly 25% water changes, and see what happens.>
Thanks for the article and the recipe for the Rift Valley Salt Mix - we will give that a try. Should we do a major water change using the Salt Mix?
<No; just do your regular water changes, let's say 20-25% this week, adding to each bucket of water you add the appropriate amount of Rift Valley salt mix.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Losing Parrot Cichlids 4/18/09
I have 6 blood parrots. About a week ago they started getting white cluster bumps on their heads.

I did a 1/2 water change and started to treat them with Quick Cure for 5 days. I also put a new filter system on.
now I have lost 2 of them. They are in a 165 gallon tank.
What do you suggest I can do? Hope you can help me before I lose anymore. Thanks Bonny
< Check the water quality. When you changes the filters you may have lost your biological filtration and you fish may be suffering from ammonia spikes. The quick cure is a high copper solution that can be deadly to fish and also to the bacteria that provide the same biological filtration..
Check the ammonia and nitrites. They should be zero. The nitrates should be under 20 ppm. The white bumps may be a bacterial infection. Antibiotics like Nitrofurazone should work on this bacteria but once again affect the biological filtration. Do a 50% water change and vacuum the gravel. I would recommend treating the tank with the antibiotic as per the directions on the package. After three days do a 50% water change and add fresh carbon to remove the excess medication. Then add Dr Tim's One and Only to replenish the bacteria needed for the biological filtration..-Chuck>

Sick Blood Parrot Cichlid 12/30/08 Please help! <Will try!> I have a large (roughly 8 inch long 2 inch thick) blood parrot (Mr. Fish) that I have had for nearly 7 years. He is presently in a 90 gallon tank with 4 other smaller blood parrots. The tank had gotten somewhat neglected as my mother has been caring for them (overfeeding them cichlid staple) during a recent move and renovation of my new home. <Like any cichlid, these hybrid cichlids are very sensitive to nitrogenous wastes, including nitrate. In overstocked tanks, even if the filter takes care of ammonia and nitrite, nitrate can quickly reach dangerous levels (i.e., somewhere over 20 mg/l, with nitrate becoming quickly toxic to Cichlidae above 50 mg/l).> The first signs of trouble were Mr. Fish looking bloated and pointing his mouth constantly at the gravel -- not being able to swim horizontally. He also had a white fungus and grayish stringy material coming off him. <Classic response to chronic poor water quality...> His tailfin had nearly eroded and his other fins were torn to shreds. His eyes were also swollen but clear. When I checked the ammonia level it was off the charts. PH was also on the acidic side. <Too low... although hybrids, these fish are essentially Central American cichlids, so you do need water with a high carbonate hardness, upwards of 5-7 degrees KH. So long as you take care of that issue, pH should manage itself, assuming adequate water changes. It is of course a complete waste of time to concentrate on the pH if you aren't taking care of carbonate hardness, and if anything, it's dangerous: water with a basic pH but little carbonate hardness will quickly acidify between water changes, severely stressing your fish. How are you hardening the water?> I immediately began partial water changes until the ammonia level subsided and corrected the PH issue. Tank also has been treated with salt at appropriate levels so salt was replaced with the water changes. I began treating the tank with Maracyn II and Maracyn. This treatment did nothing and Mr. Fish got worse. <Medication will fix bacterial infections assuming conditions have been fixed; if the conditions remain bad, then the fish will just keep getting sick.> He began laying down on the bottom of the tank and developed cloudiness in the eye that he way laying down on. In desperation and at the advice of my local pet store's inexperienced employee I began treating the tank with tetracycline (and removed the charcoal filter). Amazingly, after 4 tetracycline treatments Mr. Fish improved somewhat and has begun eating again but still has slight cloudiness over his eye and is still bloated (his eyes still look bloated to me also) and he is having trouble swimming upright although now he is floating rather than laying on the bottom of the tank. He has taken to sitting under the filter as the water coming down on him seems to help him to stay upright (smart fish). I've tried feeding him peas (which I peel the skins from) which he eats but the bloating has not subsided. Water temp is 78/79 degrees. Should I raise or lower? Should I treat with Metronidazole and/or Nitrofuranace and/or Clout in a hospital tank? <Do understand that each drug treats a specific thing; there's no point (and much risk) randomly adding stuff without understanding this point. Metronidazole for example is a treatment for Hexamita and other PROTOZOAN internal parasites; Nitrofuran drugs are antibiotics for dealing with internal BACTERIAL infections; and so on. In this case, environmental issues are the key, and I'd be ensuring zero ammonia/nitrite, low (sub-20 mg/l) nitrate, and high levels of carbonate hardness before anything else. A systemic antibiotic like Maracyn should take care of any casual infections like Finrot.> I'm really worried and don't know what to do next. I've had this fish for a long time (even had to battle to get him back in my divorce) and don't want to lose my favorite pet -- I'd like to help him get better but am worried that I might make a mistake next. Any help you could offer would be incredibly appreciated as I am heartsick over this. Thanks for any help, Dennis <Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: Sick Blood Parrot Cichlid   12/31/08
Dear Neale, Thank you for your quick and detailed response. I checked Nitrite levels yesterday which were somewhat high and of course I'm having a hard time getting the Ammonia levels to subside (now about 1). I'll continue to monitor. I did not check the Nitrate level but will check it tonight and will work on getting Nitrite and Ammonia to zero with sub 20 Nitrate levels. I hadn't been focusing in on carbonate hardness at all, but prior to relocating the tank I had several large limestone rocks in the tank to address hardness -- right now they are sitting on the floor of my garage. I never expected to leave the tank at Mom's for long and went with a simpler setup. In fact I had forgotten why I'd put them in the tank in the first place. I will place them back in the tank immediately and will also pick up a commercial hardening salt to speed this along. I'm certain you are correct and that the water is too soft right now. Foolish for me not to think of. Thanks again and I'll keep you updated. In the meanwhile Mr. Fish continues to swim and eat so I am hopeful for his recovery. Wishing you a very Happy New Year, Dennis & Mr. Fish <Hello again! Your immediate problem is the ammonia and nitrite levels, both of which can be managed to some degree by massive water changes, not feeding the fish, and making sure that the filter is cleaned and working properly. Whenever the ammonia gets above 0.5 mg/l, change 50% of the water; realistically, this is likely to be every day or so, at least until things settle down. Within a week or so you should find the filter working normally and water quality settled. As for water chemistry, rocks alone tend to be pretty indifferent water chemistry buffers: buffering is proportional to surface area, and rocks are large and so have a small surface area to volume ratio compared with an equivalent mass of coral sand. The best approaches to water chemistry management are either to add Malawi Salt mix (or its homebrew equivalent) to the water, or else to incorporate a substantial amount of coral sand into an undergravel filter or within a compartment of an external canister filter. If you want to make your own salt mix to harden the water, a common Rift Valley salt mix is as follows. Per 5 gallons/20 litres 1 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) 1 tablespoon Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) 1 teaspoon marine salt mix (sodium chloride + trace elements) Stir in the bucket, and then when dissolved, add to the aquarium. Since you don't need water quite so hard as a Malawi aquarium, a half dose (i.e., this amount per 10 gallons) should be ample. Use your test kits to keep tabs on pH and hardness, and make adjustments as necessary. Make changes to water chemistry in small steps so as not to stress any fish. Do see here for more: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsubwebindex.htm Be sure and understand that domestic water softeners produce water that is not useful for keeping fish, and also that salt by itself, often sold as "tonic salt" or "aquarium salt" doesn't raise hardness or pH. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Sick Blood Parrot Cichlid 1/2/09
Thanks again Neale for all your help, <We're here to help.> I'd given some bad info earlier on the ammonia level -- it was at 0.25 ppm but is now at near 0. <Movement in the right direction!> Nitrate level is at 10ppm and Nitrite at 0.50 ppm. <Much better, though still some way to go. Ammonia really does need to be zero for any degree of success, and even trace amounts of nitrite make keeping fish much more difficult, at least under freshwater conditions (it's different in saltwater tanks).> Hardness level was at 3 and ph at 7.0 so I added a commercial hardener and am raising ph. <OK; but do concentrate on hardness rather than pH. Adding pH buffering "potions" will temporarily raise the pH, but in an unstable tank the effect can be very short term. If you raise the carbonate hardness, you'll find pH takes care of itself automatically.> Ultimately I'll replace I also added some additional stress zyme in hopes of jump starting the process of getting the biologicals back on track. <Personally, wouldn't waste money on anything like Stress Zyme. You likely have lots of bacteria in the filters; the problem is getting the tank stabilised. Once that happens, the bacteria will look after themselves. Fishkeeping is a cheap and easy hobby if you understand which bits you have to watch and which bits can be left on autopilot.> I'll check levels again later. Mr. Fish has however begun floating on his side with the bloated part of his body sticking out of the water when he is not active. When he does swim and eat he seems more active and stronger than he's been now that water quality is improving. <Likely will improve as water quality improves.> His eye continues to improve but I'm very worried about him floating. Is it possible he has some kind of an intestinal blockage I should be worried about? <Very possible; foods such as tinned peas and live brine shrimp can help clear blockages. Do see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWsubwebindex/gldfshmalnut.htm> How long should I wait to see if he improves before taking any more drastic measures? Should I fast him for a few days? <Fasting his for 7 days would not only be safe but sensible.> Anything is appreciated. I'm still panicked out here... Thanks,
<Good luck, Neale.>

Parrot Fish, hlth.    9/28/08 Hello, <Hello,> I have had a parrot fish for about a year now, in a 55 gallon tank with a Tiger Oscar, Jack Dempsey, another parrot, a Firemouth and Green Terror. We have a Dracula Pleco as well. <Not enough space for all these fish; they will fight, likely also have problems maintaining low nitrate concentration for long term success. If you have more than 20 mg/l nitrate in this tank, you're running a real risk of a Hexamita outbreak.> About 7 days ago, his face on one side started to swell and look puss-filled, then white bumps formed like pimples. (See pics). <Bacterial infection, like Finrot and/or Columnaris. Will need to be treated appropriately. Do understand that these infections are almost always related to environmental issues, so do review water chemistry and quality. Treatment without correcting the environmental issues that caused the disease in the first place won't deliver long-term results for obvious reasons.> We went to the aquarium shop and they said he might have bumped into something and it got infected, so they gave us KanaPlex antibiotics. We have dosed the tank for 4 days and have not seen much improvement. He is acting normal, but didn't eat for a few days. He's eating again now. <Would recommend Maracyn first, and if no improvement after one full course, switch to Maracyn 2.> Thanks for any help. We check our water regularly, vacuum every 2 weeks, change our filters every 4-6 weeks and feed pellets twice a day. <Too many fish with too different requirements in terms of water chemistry... this aquarium has the potential to go wrong in lots of ways. Do research the needs of each species, and then concentrate on providing those conditions for a subset of the fish you have, and get rid of the others. Cheers, Neale.>

Red Parrot 'swim bladder' disease 4/9/08 Help <Okay> 2 years ago we inherited a small 50 litre tank <Some teen net gallons...> with a basic filter and 2 red parrots and 2 Plecs <... all need more room than this> which our friends have had for years with very few problems. After a year of huge growth they soon out-grew their tank so we purchased a much larger 240 litre tank with a 'proper' external filter and medium which they seemed to prefer and more recently added another 2 red parrots and a Gold Severum <Ahh!> 2 months later we noticed smaller of the original red parrots (around 6" in length) became unstable and having read up on the 'swim bladder' condition we gave her a course of treatment. <Details please. What sort of treatment?> This seemed to work but after another couple of weeks the same thing was happening again. Since then we have treated the water 3 times and done countless extra water changes and tested the water every few days but to no avail. The red parrot now spends most of her time floating upside-down, is always last to the food at feeding times and constantly struggles to maintain her balance but we seem to have tried every suggestion given to us Do you have any ideas on what else we can try as we sometimes feel that our only option would be to put her out of her misery but then can't bring ourselves to do it Mark & Sam Hewson <Mmm, well... Parrots, being neotropical crosses as they are, do have a tendency to have orientation issues... Particularly if raised on too-fatty foods, w/ insufficient exercise/room... Do please read here re: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/gldfshmalnut.htm  Though for goldfish... this same "condition/syndrome" has the same etiology and general lack of cure for Parrots. Bob Fenner>

Re: Red Parrot 'swim bladder' disease -04/11/08 Hi Bob <Mark and Sam> Many thanks for getting back to us, we do appreciate it <Welcome> We are certainly going to try putting some 'real' plants in the tank - something we were told not to do since the fish will just destroy them but if it helps with their health then we don't mind <There are some simple, tough... and inexpensive "bunch plants" (listed on WWM) that are not very palatable, that will "do" all the things you're looking for... See here re: http://wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/AquariumGardenSubWebIndex.html for Coontail/Hornwort, Elodea/Anacharis...> We will also try the peas, etc and I had read on your website that other people with similar problems had found that lowering the water temperature slightly can sometimes help - this is something I did the other evening after I e-mailed you and over the past 2 days she seems to be moving around a lot better, albeit upside down, but she has stopped spending so much time floating at the top of the tank <Ah, good> The treatment that we used for the suspected swim bladder problems was Interpet's own swim bladder treatment which we tried 3 times with no success as well as adding Aquilibrium Salt at the times of treatment and at every water change as a general tonic <... not a fan of these cathartics> I will keep you posted as to what happens with 'Perky' and let you know if she gets any 'Perkier' Mark & Sam Hewson <Thank you, BobF>

Re: Red Parrot 'swim bladder' disease  4/17/08 Hi Bob <Hewsons!> With reference to our last e-mail about 'Perky' our upside-down Red Parrot fish, despite seeming to be getting better she died the very next day after the e-mail but we have carried on feeding the fish a variety of different foods, flake, bloodworm and the veggies and they seem to be ok Will check out the website for the real plants Many thanks for all your help Mark & Sam Hewson <Thank you for this update. BobF>

Parrotfish Dying? Env., thermal dis.  -- 02/07/08 Please help me to figure out whether or not I need to put this incredible, tough little fish to "sleep" or not........ <Okay> I've had this parrotfish, Marvel Ann, for over ten years now. <This is a good long while for this neotropical cichlid cross...> She has grown over five times her original length and is now about eight inches from nose to tail. She's always been a feisty, funny fish and for anyone who hasn't ever had a fish who rushes to the nearest corner of the tank to greet you when you come in, I hope you one day experience that! This little girl has been one of the most personality-plus animals I've ever seen and I'm afraid I'm going to have to euthanize her out of compassion for her.............. I moved recently from a rental situation in which I was living in a friend's "mother-in-law" suite in the back of his house to my own, new house. My friend/landlord offered to feed Marvel Ann for me while I was in the process of getting the new house painted and ready to bring the tank over and situation and I was over at the old place about once or twice a week for the last month to visit and remind Marvel Ann that she wasn't being orphaned! I arrived last night at the old apartment and found that the heater in the tank was HOT...the tank thermometer was registering about 93 degrees!!! It looked like the heater had malfunctioned and just didn't turn off when it hit the 80 degree "set" I'd had it on; the holders that keep it attached to the inside of the tank had actually cracked and broken!!! My baby was and is now swimming almost exclusively upside-down. She is unable to maintain an upright position to swim, though God knows she seems to be staying energetic enough that she keeps trying.... she'll swim along (upside down) and then go nose-to-gravel and sort of "flip" over, only to float back to the upside-down position. I totally freaked. I don't know how bad this is and I don't know if I'm being cruel to not euthanize her!!! <I would not give up hope here> I know that my landlord has been feeding her (frozen bloodworm "gumdrops"...4 per day) as I'd always done, so malnutrition isn't the problem, and I brought a sample of the tank water to the local PetSmart and they said everything looked fine; Ph was a little low but that was all; no nitrate/nitrite/ammonia levels to worry about. I put plastic bags with ice cubes in the tank and cooled the water back down and got another heater ASAP (like an hour after I found the temperature so high!) but I'm terrified that she's been "cooking" over some indefinite amount of time and that she's either in "pain" (how do I find this out?) or that her internal organs are now non-functional...I can't imagine what to do or how to remedy this.....please! HELP! Two different aquarium stores have told me that they doubt she's going to "make it" and when I asked if I needed to euthanize her, they said yes, I probably would need to. <I disagree> One said that the most painless way was to put her in a bag of tank water and put the bag in the refrigerator and she'd "drop off" like she was falling asleep. The other said to put her in a bag of tank water that had a LOT of baking soda in it. They said this will instantly kill the fish. <Mmm, no... not instant> I am heartbroken. This fish has been with me for so long and responds to "contact" better than some peoples' cats! I don't want to lose her, but I don't want her to suffer, either. I can't imagine whether this swimming upside-down thing is as exhaustive as it looks or if it's just situation-normal-all-f'd-up (but upside down!)...I put some bloodworm mix in a turkey baster and she ate when I put that in the water up to her mouth, but I'm pretty frantic right now.....NO idea what direction to turn next!!!! <Calm yourself!> Thank you, for your help and for understanding that this isn't "just" a fish, at least not to me. It's a life, one that's touched mine, and I want the most comfortable and humane living and/or dying circumstances for her, just as I would want for myself. Thank you for helping me figure out what that needs to be!!! Monica in Dallas, Texas (United States) <I would try to be patient here... this fish, situation may well resolve itself. There are many instances of such spontaneous remission, following such heat exposure. I urge patience. IF you find that you (not the fish) cannot withstand such waiting, please read here re proper euthanization: http://wetwebmedia.com/euthanasiafaqs.htm Bob Fenner>

Re: Parrotfish Dying?   2/8/08 Bob! <Monica> Thank you so much for this email. I have been unsure what to do (as is obvious!) and Marvel Ann is still swimming upside down, but she "rests" most of the time in the corner of her tank until she senses movement close to the tank. <Good> Then she gets excited and wriggles her way up to where that activity is (usually it's me just approaching the tank!) and waits, fins frantically keeping her "up", while I put my face or my hand next to her on the other side of the glass. She responds when I "kiss" the tank by coming up and putting her funny little fish lips right on the other side! I don't know, maybe other people have fallen in love with their fish, too, but I've had many, many pet friends along the way (I'm 48, for God's sake, I know this isn't typical adult behavior and I really don't give a happy damn!) and this little fish has given me more joy than a lot of people's precious human kids seem to!!! <I am older... and feel the same> I talked to a vet here who said to feed her just frozen peas; that if there was an infection that had caused the swim bladder to not function properly then the peas would help that out, but she's spitting the peas out (OK, she may be more like a human kid than I'd realized!) and mashing them up yields a lumpy sort of paste that she doesn't seem to take in, either..... <Patience...> so I'm back to giving her bloodworms from a turkey baster. I just don't know how much is getting in or "through" her. I'm not seeing anything coming out, I guess I should say. Is that something to be worried about? <Not at present. This fish can likely "go w/o" food for weeks...> I can't say as I've spent any time before observing her elimination functions and now I don't know what's "normal" to see and what's not. I don't want her to be hungry and I don't want her to be getting force-fed until she pops, either! This is SO unnerving. People are saying to wait and one person said she's seen a restaurant with a tank full of parrotfish where one fish has swum upside-down for years. If Marvel Ann were swimming a lot, upside down or otherwise, I'd be more encouraged, but she's only swimming much when (as I say) she sees me approaching and even then when she stops, she just kind of sinks down to the bottom and bumps her nose and eyes, etc..... I have no idea how much this hurts her, if at all. More than anything I don't want her to be hurting or exhausted. <Not to worry> I know this is near to impossible to do anything about, but thank you for listening, Bob, and for understanding how much these little guys can come to mean to people. I do (really!) have friends on two legs that I love greatly, too, but........there's just something about having to make yourself learn to understand these non-verbal (though not always non-noisy!), communicative critters that softens the heart and makes (I think) us more human. I am calming myself, as you said. Thanks for caring about unknown people and critters and for helping us out. Take care and have a good day, Monica <And you. Bob Fenner>

Discoloration of Jellybean  07/02/05 Hi, I have recently purchased a pink Jellybean, from the Blood Red Parrot Cichlid family, <Mmm, not a family but a tweaked cross-breed of the cichlid family itself> these are the man made fish  as you probably know, and very expensive. I have had her for about 3 weeks now.  She is in a 5 gallon tank by herself. <Too small...> I have a whisper filter, colored gravel, a  fake plant, and one decoration. Lately she has been turning colors. First her lip had a black spot on it and now it is jumping around her body from place to  place with large and small areas that are gray and black in color. She acts  healthy and eats fine. I have asked the LFS where I bought her about this and  have searched the internet trying to find out what's wrong with her, but cannot  find anything. I did have my water tested and it is fine. <Need actual values... "fine" is of no use> Please let me know  what's wrong so I can get her treated as soon as possible.  Thanks. -  Stacy <Is this system cycled? This is a social dihybrid species... needs to be in a larger system... Bob Fenner>

Parrot Cichlids Stressed By High Nitrates  9/19.5/05 I had 2 parrots and a Pleco in a 30 gal. tall tank.  They were all about 5 inches long.  Unfortunately, I let the nitrates get too high!  The parrots started hovering around the bio-wheel filter like they couldn't breath and then sunk to the bottom of the tank. I started with an aggressive water change of about 40% to reduce the nitrates and the gravel was cleaned and filter changed.  Nitrites were non-existent, PH was good. The only problem seemed to be the nitrates.  The next day 1 of the parrots was dead and the nitrates were sky high again!  I did another water change and headed to my neighborhood aquarium and fish store.  They specialize in fish and their tanks and fish always look clean and healthy. Their answer was the nitrates removed the oxygen from the water.  They recommend not adding any meds for Ich or internal bacterial infection although parrots are prone to infection with bad water quality, because this too will remove oxygen from the water.  They recommend adding an aerator powerhead to add oxygen and also aquarium salt to help with the stress. Since then I have continued testing nitrates and making water changes and the tank seems to be stabilizing to 10 to 20 ppm in nitrates, but the parrot is still not eating, spends most of it's time on the bottom of the tank seeming to gasp for air, or perhaps just too weak to swim. It also seems to be showing slight signs of Ich.  The Pleco doesn't seem to have been effected by any of this. The tank is about 82 degrees (normal for this tank).  It's been about seven days since this all started and about 6 water changes later.  Will the parrot recover?  Could there be anything else wrong?  Have I done the right things, or can anything else be done?  When should I treat with meds for Ich or bacterial infections, if at all? Thank you, Angela < The 82 F will take care of the Ich. You parrots have been stressed by the high nitrates and probably have an internal bacterial infection. Keep the nitrates down and treat with Metronidazole for internal bacterial problems.-Chuck>  

Damaged Parrot Cichlid  - 04/19/2006 I have 3 medium sized parrots and 5 silver dollars in a 26 gallon tank.  My smallest parrot managed to wedge himself into a hole in a rock, and it took some effort to work him back out - his face and side are fairly scraped up, and he had to be handled a bit more than I'm comfortable with.  Now he can't seem to get upright, and is stuck upside down.  The other two parrots keep pushing him toward the top of the tank, but he ends up back at the bottom, upside down.  He is working his gills, fins and tail, but that doesn't seem to be doing much.  I'm in the middle of treating the tank for slime - using Furazone-light - but I don't think that would affect much.  I did a 30% water change 2 days ago.  The tank is a bit acidic at 6.0, nitrites are 0, nitrates are less than 20 ppm, and ammonia is less than 0.25 ppm, and I keep the temp at 82 degrees.  I'm afraid I may have damaged his swim bladder while rescuing him.  I'm not sure what   I should do at this point - any ideas? Deb Jones <Your fish could have been damaged during the initial trauma or has suffered a secondary bacterial infection. Not much we can do with the initial trauma. Surface wounds can be treated quickly with MelaFix. If any secondary bacterial infections or fungus appear then you have already treated with Nitrofurazone. Internal bacterial infection can be treated with Metronidazole. Do a 50% water change, clean the filter and vacuum the gravel. Treat as directed on the package.-Chuck>

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