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FAQs on Loricariids, South and Central American Suckermouth Cats 1: Disease Diagnosis

FAQs on "Pleco" Disease: Loricariid Disease 1, Loricariid Disease 2, Loricariid Disease 3, Loricariid Disease 4,
FAQs on "Pleco" Disease by Category: Environmental, Nutritional (e.g. HLLE), Social, Infectious (Virus, Bacterial, Fungal), Parasitic (Ich, Velvet...), Trauma, Treatments,

Related Articles: Loricariids, OtocinclusFrom Pan-ack-ay to Pan-ack-zee, A Detailed Look at the Bizarre But Beautiful Panaque Catfishes by Neale Monks

Related Loricariid Catfish FAQs: Loricariids 1, Loricariids 2, Loricariid Identification, Loricariid Behavior, Loricariid Compatibility, Loricariid Selection, Loricariid Systems, Loricariid Feeding, Loricariid Reproduction,
Other Loricariid Genera: FAQs on: Ancistrus, Baryancistrus, Genera Farlowella, Loricaria, Sturisoma, Rhineloricaria: Twig Plecostomus, Genera Glyptoperichthys, Liposarcus,  OtocinclusPterygoplichthys, Sailfin Giants among the Loricariids, The Zebra Pleco, Hypancistrus zebra, Hypostomus, Peckoltia: Clown Plecostomus, Lasiancistrus, Panaque, Pseudacanthicus, Scobanancistrus, L-number catfish,

Red mouth on albino Ancistrus       1/25/19
Hello, I was hoping you could help me with this question as I wasn’t able to find any similar cases and this has not happened to my Ancistrus before.
I have several albino Ancistrus that were born in the same tank and have been healthy for a couple of years now, I’ve had other fish get sick and die but the Ancistrus never seemed to have any problem. A female died about two weeks ago and I wasn’t able to find the reason why, but it seemed to be the mother of the others, that is the only one of my Ancistrus that has died so far. My question was about another female Ancistrus, I noticed today that her mouth and gills are bright red (much more than usual), also its stomach seems to be a bit swollen (I am not too sure about this) and it is sticking to the glass a lot although I think she always does this.
As for recent changes in my aquarium I have changed my filter for a bigger one, it has a black sponge, activated carbon and I added a couple of ceramic rings from my previous filter. The tank has a heater and some plants (both natural and artificial) there are hiding places and the substrate was green gravel but I added white sand some weeks ago. There are Angelfish, Tetras, and Corydoras in the tank; one of the Corydoras had what I think was an infection (it lost its barbels and dorsal fin, I think this scales were a bit raised around its tail) I got him separated and gave him antibiotics for about a week of more until the scales were looking better, the barbels and fin are still not completely cured but the fish is now in the main tank and behaving normally.
This is about all the information I can think of right now. I hope it is enough for you to help me, I am not able to know the nitrate, ammonia, etc. levels because it is really difficult find aquarium specialized shops in my country, usually they just sell fish and fish food, I will however try to find a water test kit a soon as I can. I will attach some photos of the fish I am asking about and also one which I just noticed has a bit of redness in the tip of one of it’s pectoral fins (doesn’t seem too worrying but just in case). As I was taking the photos I noticed another female (last photo) which seems to be developing the same symptoms... this worries me a lot, to better describe the symptom I would say it red in the whole lower part (the part that faces down, including the mouth) of the head, and it has some extra red spots. The first photo is makes it more visible.
<This looks to be some sort of Septicaemia. It tends to be seen on catfish and loaches where the substrate is too sharp, but other environmental factors could be responsible. In particular, bottom dwellers are exposed to low oxygen levels if the filter doesn't "push" a lot of water along the substrate. This makes diseases such as Septicaemia more common. Finrot-type infections can also occur, and likely explain the Corydoras that lost its whiskers. Antibiotic or antibacterial medications are required; here in England, I'd be going with eSHa 2000, but if you live somewhere antibiotics are sold in pet shops, like America, then something like Kanaplex is what you'd want. Review the environment before you add medication, because if something is wrong, medicine won't help. Good luck, Neale.>

Sick Pleco       5/6/18
Hi there,
We have a Pleco (Plecunga) that has grown huge over the last few years - we think he's about 10 years old, and he's about 20-21" long. He's in a 320litre, 7ft tank. Tank is high GH (180 ppm) and KH (approx 100ppm), which is not ideal for a Pleco but he's always had this.
<Actually, am glad to find you have a modicum of pH resisting hardness here. This large catfish produces copious wastes... would be trouble if there was little buffering capacity>
PH 6.9, no detectable ammonia or nitrites, nitrate about 40ppm - nothing of concern.
<Mmm; the pH is okay, but I'd work on the NO3... at the very least increase the percentage or double the interval of water changes. In the meanwhile do read on WWM re Nitrate, control. I'd keep this under 20 ppm>
Tank mates (1 ghost knife fish, 3 silver dollars, 3 Gourami, 2 large clown loaches and 2 angel fish) are all fine, as is the smaller (~10") albino Pleco. He is the alpha male and nobody in this tank has ever been seen bullying him - though he occasionally chases the albino. But his skin is "cracking" on both sides of his body and looks raw/bleeding near the tail.
<I see this in your images>
He's also almost continually shimmying, like he has an itch.
<Likely both issues are environmental... the low pH, high NO3... Though of all the other fishes listed, the smaller Pleco might be "riding" the larger, causing damage>
Dorsal fin not overly affected just some minor splitting, but quite some splitting of the tail fin (sorry, no photo-he seems stressed enough without me pulling his tail fin apart). I don't think he's eating. As we are in Australia I don't have access to the same level of antibiotics that would be available in the US. Best I could get is aquari-cycline (from blue planet), a broad spectrum antibiotic based on tetracycline, which we started treating him with, but not seeing any improvement.
<Mmm; I would NOT treat this fish as such; as the root problem is either environmental or social. >
We have a 60cm (2ft) fully cycled hospital tank (with some guppies) which we could isolate him in but I think this would be torture.
<Yes; too large a biomass in too small a volume>
We are very fond of him, and would really appreciate any and all advice you can think of in our mission to get him better!
Reneke and Metis.
<Appreciate your concern; share it. Again, I would have you read here:
and the linked files at top, and:
Bob Fenner>

Odd parasite or injury     1/11/18
Hi! I have a Pleco (I honestly am not sure what breed) who is about 15 years old.
<Likely Pterygoplichthys species of some sort -- by far the most common of the "Common Plecs" in the hobby.>
I rescued him in 2010 from a foreclosed on home in the middle of the Las Vegas summer. The previous owner had left a fish tank in his home in a living room in front of uncovered windows. For several months I would jog past this place and see the tank and decided to ask the bank if I could remove the tank, not knowing there was a fish in it still. It’s a miracle he was still alive.
<They are tough fish, that's for sure!>
The original owner’s children informed me he was almost 8 years old.
<Nice. They can live a long time, given good conditions, easily well over 20 years.>
Needless to say this fish has bonded to me.
<It's lovely when these Plecs become tame. They're so shy otherwise, and reportedly nocturnal, but once settled, they'll come out during the daytime. My Panaque is right now at the front of the tank begging for food. If there was anyone else in the room, or any noise, she'd be inside her cave hiding away.>
I have had no idea that a fish could have such an awesome connective personality, he sits in my hand, follows me from one side of the tank to the other and greets me when he sees me come home from work.
He even plays soccer with me with his own little aquarium soccer ball that he also sleeps on.
The problem is that he got a spot on his nose a few months ago and I treated the water with a multi-purpose fungus and parasite treatment. It didn’t go away but didn’t seem to get bigger. Then one morning it had a weird transparent mushroom bubble looking thing growing out of it.
<Understood. Bubbles or blisters under the skin are a sort of injury, with gas or liquid collecting underneath the skin, creating a sort of bubble. Sometimes they're caused by supersaturation of the water with oxygen. This almost never happens in freshwater tanks, but is slightly more common in marine tanks. Either way, it's caused by ridiculously too much aeration, so that too much gas dissolves in the water, and for some reason it comes out of solution inside the fish, rather like when you open a can of soda-pop and the bubbles all fizz out. The bubbles cause substantial damage to nearby tissues, and can develop into visible bubble-like growths just under the skin. Anyway, toning down aeration helps, and eventually the "gas bubble disease" fixes itself. Now, if the bubble is fluid-filled rather than gas bubbles, we call it a blister, and these are usually caused by a bacterial infection. They can respond well to anti bacteria treatments. The fact the bubble is around the snout suggests some sort of physical injury, such as the gravel being too sharp, and catfish generally are particularly prone to these odd problems because they rest with their nose, whiskers and belly on the substrate. So unlike other fish, which float, they're more prone to becoming scratched and/or infected with bacteria living on the substrate. It's more or less similar to what we'd call Finrot, and might be treated with the same medicines. But I'd also recommended reviewing the tank, cleaning the substrate as thoroughly as practical, and ensuring that there's nothing rough in the tank that the catfish might abrade itself with.>
I treated his tank again and it fell off or went away and he seemed happier. Then a month goes by and now there’s a new one there and the first one is back and is red like it’s full of blood. I have done so much research and can’t find any information on it. Can you give me some suggestions as to what this is and what I should do?
<Do see above.>
My buddy is in his senior years and I want him to continue to be healthy and happy. I feed him zucchini and algae wafers (which he doesn’t eat, he prefers the zucchini). I once gave him a piece of mango which he promptly spit out of the tank at me so mango is a NO! Spinach just became a rotting tank plant, so I supposed I have a picky eater. I named him Old Greg. I love him so!
<Do try some other foods to vary the diet. Algae wafers will be eaten, but also offer slivers of white fish and shrimp, bits of mollusk such as cockles and mussels, sweet potato, cooked or canned peas. A lump of bogwood may also provide useful fibre for Plecs of all types, even those that don't actually digest wood (as Panaque spp. do) and merely consume it while rasping away at any algae.>
Thanks for your help!
<Most welcome. Neale.>

ill Pleco    9/17/17
hi I'm new to everything about fishes and keeping them in aquarium , in my country isn't much of knowledge about Pleco and I'm not sure i can even find the right medicine . but i don't want to keep a Pleco infected with
fungus or parasite so i wanted to ask you about a red bump on the nose of my baby Pleco . what is it ? is it a fungus or parasite or worm ? please help me.
<Appears to me to be a physical injury... perhaps a scrape against something hard, or rub?>
i don't know which specie it is but i can send you a picture of an adult Version . my Pleco is 5 cm long (nose to tail ) . i gust got it 2 days ago and i saw the red bump (i send the picture).
<I would not treat this fish, injury with medication/s, but just keep the  system stable and water quality optimized. I want to have you read here Re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlecTraumaF.htm
Bob Fenner>

Re: ill Pleco. Now fdg....     9/17/17
thank you soooo much for you're help , i was scared to death that maybe it's a parasite . they are very very expensive here���� thank you again .
sorry for bad English �� and i will definitely read the page you send me .
forgive me but one more question if i may�� does these small Pleco eat fish food or just microplants ?
<Mainly feed on algae... tablets are fine; some folks supplement with a bit of animal matter (bloodworms, frozen/defrosted, or dried/soaked so they sink are best here). >
and do i gave them any vitamins ?
<Likely prepared foods will provide these>
thank you for
all you're hard work and help ��
<Glad to help/share. Bob Fenner>

Albino Bristlenose plecostomus      2/1/17
Hello I was told by a PetCo employee to ask you about my plecostomus.
<Fire away.>
The end of December we upgraded to a larger tank. He used to be very active always out where we could see him. since we set up the new tank he has lost most of the webbing on his fins and he has a sore on his belly.
<I can see this. It's a bacterial infection (so I'd be using a reliable antibiotic, not MelaFix or salt) but the question is why is it like this. Usually when catfish show this sort of damage, it's because the substrate is either too sharp, too dirty, or some combination of the two. What you've got there are ulcers, you see. I'm not a huge fan of funky substrates and would instead always recommend smooth, plain vanilla gravel rather than anything sharp or jagged. Failing that, a thin layer of smooth lime-free sand (such as silica sand or pool filter sand) works well too. While sharp or coloured gravels are often fine for midwater fish, catfish drag themselves across those substrates, and in the process can damage themselves. Bear in mind that your Ancistrus naturally comes from shallow streams where the water flows over sand, boulders and bogwood. So he's adapted to smooth surfaces and has a very tender belly. Review, and act accordingly. Fix the substrate, keep it clean, treat with antibiotics, and all should be well.>
We check the water levels regularly and they are always fine. He lives with three zebra danios, three Dalmatian tail platys and a Japanese algae eating shrimp. Two of the zebra danios have died though. I'm putting stress coat and MelaFix into the tank and he is now being more active but he still doesn't look healthy. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do for him!
Thank you
<Most welcome. Neale.>

Re: Albino Bristlenose plecostomus      2/1/17
Thank you for the prompt response!!
I will switch out the substrate for a softer one. What antibiotic do you suggest and where can I get it?
<Depends where you live. In the US, various antibiotics are sold in aquarium shops, such as Kanaplex. Outside the US, antibiotics are normally legally sold only with a prescription, which you get from a vet. So alternatives to antibiotics are sold in aquarium shops that work almost as well. Here in the UK, I recommend a product called eSHa 2000 as inexpensive and reliable. Cheers, Neale.>

Pleco belly turning white? 2/8/10
<... 16 Megs in pix?>
I am concerned about my Pleco , who I have had for 10 years.
Recently his belly has turned a grayish white color.
<I see this>
It doesn't seem to bother" Mr. Bigfish" ,as he is still eating , sucking, swimming, and pooping away....
Always swims to the top of the tank on the side to say hello when I talk to him...He has always been a happy healthy fish.
The only thing I have read as this is normal with older age but I really want to make sure as we love our Mr. Bigfish.
He is very well fed, clean home, vacuumed regularly and great temp and PH...all checked daily , as he is a big pooper...
His belly used to have a very black and white contrast of a maze like the color on his sides...I started using Melafix today just in case...
<I would not use this product period. See WWM re>
I have included some pictures..Please tell me if this is normal or of there is something I must do for him.
*Pictures can be enlarged for you.....Thank-you very much for any help!
<This fish is likely fine. Some such changes in colour are due to variable water quality... in turn accounted for in being in too-small volumes, inadequate filtration, maintenance. Please read here:
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Re: Pleco belly turning white? 02/08/10
Hello Bob,
<Hello again>
Thank-you for answering so fast.
First, I must say I am very sorry for the size of my pictures I thought I had made them smaller and included a link for the larger size....
<Ahh! I understand>
I fear with what you have told me that Mr. Bigfish needs a larger home.
<Some Loricariid species get REALLY big indeed... I got to be in a "mud wrangling contest" at a Tampa fish farm once with Pterygoplichthys that were well over two foot in length!>
He lives in a 30 gallon tank all to himself as he doesn't play well with others...He is 17".
How big of an aquarium should he have to be happy?
<Really? About six plus foot in length>
I change 50% water weekly and vacuum , I use a AquaClear powerhead undergravel filter that pumps 175 gph, I keep his PH 7.0 and temp 75.
I also add PH up to keep up with the PH between water changes, as well as using a net to scoop the poop daily.
I read the link you sent...Thank-you. I couldn't find anything regarding not using Melafix on WWM...
<Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/phonyfwmeds.htm
or just use the search tool... on every page>
Although I did stop using and did a 50% water change this morning ...could you please send me a link?
Love this site as your articles have helped me in the past to establish this clean home.
<Am very glad that we have aided your efforts>
I never expected to have such a big fish but he is my beloved pet and I want to spoil him as best I can.
Thank-you again for your time in helping me...
<Certainly welcome. BobF>

Sick Pleco, Really Need Help 1/29/10
Hi. I've been researching online and reading posts on your site, which is really excellent.
<Thank you.>
After what I think has been a pretty good search, I'm still not sure about how to help my sick Pleco and am in desperate need of expert advice. I don't know the gender, age, or type of Pleco, but "he" is about 6" long and I've attached some photos in case that helps.
<Pterygoplichthys pardalis, likely a male given the size of the genital papilla.>
I apologize in advance for the long history that follows. It may not be relevant but so much has happened in my fish tank that I am including it in case it provides some clue to the best treatment plan.
I am a relatively new aquarist but have had more than my share of problems with this tank.
<Problems of your own making, I'm afraid. Looking over the selection of fish for example, you've made bad choices, and then misdiagnosed problems and probably caused them through poor water quality. While I'll do my best to explain where you went wrong, I fear you're going to get a bit annoyed with me.>
It is a 25 gallon tall tank with an undergravel filter and a Marineland Magnum Pro filter/bio wheel.
<This aquarium is less than half the size needed for your Plec.
Pterygoplichthys pardalis is barely viable in a 55 gallon tank, and realistically needs something 75 gallons upwards. Be under no illusions here: healthy fish reach a length of 45 cm (about 18 inches) within two years. They are incredibly messy herbivores, and will completely overwhelm your filtration system.>
It was given to me by a friend 5 months ago, along with the Pleco, 2 lemon tetras, 1 angelfish, 1 cardinal tetra, 1 phantom tetra and a Cory cat.
<Some friend...>
The tank and fish were not very healthy (pH was lower than 6.0 and the angelfish had lip fibroma, big white granules that were not Ick, scales falling off, problems with slime coat, etc.).
<Not a "Fibroma" but either Columnaris or Finrot, two very common bacterial infections that set in when fish are exposed to chronically poor conditions.>
The cardinal did not survive the move. I did a lot of research to try and prevent any more casualties and kept a close eye on water quality (tank cycled quickly because biofilter was already established) but despite heroic measures, the angel died about three weeks later, and the phantom tetra about a month after that. He had no visible problems but just stopped eating and did not respond to any treatment.
<Again, I suspect you misjudged water quality and water chemistry. For a tank like this, you're aiming for slightly soft to moderately hard water, with a neutral to slightly basic pH; in other words around 10 degrees dH and a pH around 7 to 7.5. Do read:
All seemed stable for about a month so I started adding more fish in two week intervals. I was aiming for two schools of 7 tetras plus the Cory and the Pleco, which based on my reading seemed OK but the more I learn about Plecos still may be too many for this tank (?).
First I added 3 phantom tetras, then 2 lemon tetras, and finally 3 more lemon tetras. Unfortunately, I did not quarantine these fish. One of the last three I added died within 48 hours and another stopped eating and then started swimming sideways so I moved her to an already established hospital tank. This happened late last November. On advice (always) from a local fish store I treated her with Maracyn Two. She stopped swimming sideways within a day but still was not eating after full treatment. Then I tried General Cure and something called "Lifeguard", which killed the biofilter in the hospital tank but she finally started eating again. Joy!
<Adding random medications without diagnosing the problem will merely kill your fish. Imagine if your doctor just gave you the first packet of pills he laid is hands on! You might get aspirin, or you might get warfarin! So you have to be sensible here. Relying on your pet store is, frankly, foolish. Grab an aquarium health book -- I assume you have at least one aquarium fish for beginners book -- and read through the diseases. There really aren't that many diseases to worry about, and in almost all cases they're caused by bad fishkeeping.
Do remember that some medications (e.g., ones with copper in) are toxic to catfish, loaches and certain other fish. Do also remember that carbon -- if used in your filter -- will remove medications before they have a chance to cure your fish.>
In the mean time, however, one of the original (male) lemon tetras in the main tank was becoming increasingly aggressive, chasing the others around until they hid behind filter inlets.
<Schooling rarely behave properly when kept in less than six specimens.>
He was especially mean to the other original (male) tetra, who along with several others was starting to look like he had fin rot. FYI, the lemon tetras also have a white tip on their nose, which gets worse when they are stressed but is not furry. I showed this to someone at a fish store told me they thought it was some kind of color variation but that doesn't seem right to me. He suggested that I remove the aggressive fish, and put the previously sick (but now eating) fish back in the main tank. BAD IDEA.
Within 24 hours she was swimming sideways again. So once again, I cleaned and changed water in the quarantine tank and put the aggressive one back in the main tank. I tried two more rounds of antibiotics in the hospital tank but she never swam upright again. After much soul searching I euthanized her. This was a week ago but it still feels awful.
Back in the main tank, the one that had been getting picked on originally has now become the new bully and the formerly aggressive one who left and has now come back to the tank is hiding and not eating, though he still chases the females around. There seems to be lots of spawning going on in this tank, which makes me think the water quality is OK. Right now ammonia is 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 20, and pH 7.6. It is a planted tank and I use RO water with equilibrium, alkaline/acid buffer, Flourish, and Flourish excel added. I haven't been able to get the pH lower, it always climbs back up and sticks around 7.6. GH is 4, KH is 4.
<This water chemistry is fine, provided it is stable.>
Finally, back to Mr. Pleco. He seemed absolutely fine through all of this except that about a month ago I noticed that he was coming up to the top of the tank when I fed the other fish and eating on the surface, which seemed like very odd behavior for a Plecostomus.
<They will gulp air when kept in poor water quality. Indeed, a tank this size with so many fish may not even have enough oxygen. This is especially problematic for catfish because they are at the bottom of the tank where there's least oxygen anyway.>
I had been feeding him a slice of zucchini or broccoli about once a week and the fish store salesperson said he was probably starving. He sold me some wafers about the size of a nickel and I started feeding him one each night. Then I noticed that his belly was kind of bloated so I thought it might be too much and started alternating days.
<That's fine.>
About a week ago I noticed him belly up and breathing heavily for a short time and the last few days he seems to be struggling with his buoyancy, not sucking on the side of the tank as much or slowly floating upwards when he does. He hides under plants, as if he needs them to hold him down, and he seems to be active a lot during the day whereas he used to hang out under the rock. From the posts, I thought he might be constipated, but he has actually been making huge amounts of poop - long strings about 4" - 6" long or more. It is all over the tank. They are dark greenish color, a bit like the color of the wafers. It also sounds from the posts that a problem like this could be an internal bacterial infection, eggs, or tapeworms. I can see from one of these photos, though I had not noticed it earlier that his gills are very red inside. He is clearly not a happy guy (or girl), but I just don't know what to do to help him. Should I stop feeding him the wafers?
<These are fine, but wouldn't use them every night; 3-4 nights per week is fine.>
Move him to a hospital tank or maybe treat the whole tank? If so, with what? I'm not really trusting the fish stores for advice any more.
I love my fish tank, it gives me so much pleasure to watch them and care for them but I'm not sure how much more suffering and death I can handle.
<Do start by reviewing stocking density, and then thinking about what types of fish to keep. Not all fish work in all tanks, and not all the fish commonly sold either get along or are easy to keep.
I feel so responsible for these little lives and my small garden is running out of burial space. I've thought about tearing down and sterilizing everything but the idea of cycling a "new" tank with all these fish,
<No, this wouldn't fix anything. Once an aquarium is cycled, treat the live filter bacteria like gold dust!>
especially when they are not healthy doesn't seem like the best idea either.
<Much fish health is opportunistic. When fish are provided the right conditions, their immune systems fight off the bacteria; when fish are weak, the normally harmless bacteria cause problems.>
I can understand why so many people give up on this hobby.
<Usually the ones who fail created their own problems. If you read and plan ahead, and do things precisely "by the numbers", it's actually a very easy hobby.>
Thank you so much, I am grateful for any advice you can offer.
<Suspect nothing actually wrong with the Plec beyond poisoning by overuse of medications and/or poor environmental conditions. Do a series of water changes to flush out the tank. Optimise water quality. Stabilise water chemistry. Stock the tank sensibly. Return the Plec or move it to a much larger aquarium. Buy a book.
"A Practical Guide to Setting Up Your Tropical Freshwater Aquarium" is cheap and covers all the key aspects nicely. "Manual of Fish Health" is heavier reading, but a good book on fish health, water chemistry, and other practical aspects.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Sick Pleco, Really Need Help 01/29/10
Hi Neale and thank you so much for your quick and very thorough response.
<Always happy to help.>
It sounds like despite good intentions I have been my fish tank's worst enemy.
<You are not alone in this, so don't feel too bad. We aquarists create most of the problems we have to deal with. On the up side, most problems are easy to avoid, and fixing them once they've occurred isn't necessarily difficult. But, as is often the case in life, forethought is the key.>
Specific to the Pleco, I want to clarify that I have never put any type of medication in his tank, the main tank, so that leaves environment/water quality as the most likely cause of his problems.
<Does sound probable.>
From what you are saying, even though the chemistry is fine (those numbers have not changed very much for months), the water quality is likely bad because the current population mix is causing too much waste for the system to handle.
<Again, sounds a logical deduction.>
Since a larger tank is not an option right now I will focus on 1) getting the water in pristine condition and 2) finding the Pleco a better, larger home.
<I suspect that (2) will largely make (1) happen all by itself. A 25-gallon tank is actually a pretty good size for, say, 15-20 small, Guppy-sized fish. Throwing in a Plec is where the problems begin...>
I did a 40% water change last weekend but will do another right away with a very thorough gravel cleaning and continue to do so weekly (? I had previously been doing 5 gallons every 2-3 weeks) until he is feeling better
and can be adopted.
<Yes, water changes will help. Cleaning the gravel tends to be neither here nor there, though a good stir before you siphon out the dirty water is very beneficial.>
I do own and have read cover-to-cover a guide to freshwater aquariums.
<Cool. But you'd be surprised how many people haven't read a book since they left school.>
I have scoured the Web for info, and consulted with "experts" (fish stores, fish forums). There is so much info out there, often conflicting, that it can be confusing and difficult to know who or what is right.
<Yes, I appreciate this. It's difficult to know who to trust. One advantage of having a book is that you can compare what the book says with what your advisor says. Books are edited, and the people who write them are normally experts. So book content is generally good. Yes, some books contain errors or old fashioned ideas, but mostly what books say about the basics is very reliable. To our credit, at least some of the crew here at WWM are book and magazine writers, and all the crew will have been "screened" by the older crew members before being set loose on the Daily FAQs. So while we may sometimes be a bit harsh, you can at least be sure what we're saying is based on real expertise rather than bluff.>
One place swears by salt, another says salt is really bad, etc.
<Often times, it's the shades of grey that cause problems. Catfish aren't "allergic" to salt as some suggest. Indeed, some catfish live in brackish water, and some even live in the sea. But not all catfish are equally tolerant of salt, and the amount of salt matters. Your Plec for example will tolerate a little salt rather well, and compared to copper-based Ick medication, adding a little salt to treat Ick would actually be kinder and safer. On the other hand, adding salt on a constant basis doesn't provide any benefit, and those catfish that need soft water, like Corydoras, may be stressed by it over time. So the problem is when people make sweeping generalisations without considering the outlying data points.>
I guess the best thing is to pick a source I feel I can trust (your site and one of the books you recommend) and then do it, as you say, "by the numbers".
<Quite so. Your tank is probably more or less stable in terms of filtration. Remove the surplus fish, and the filter should settle down nicely, and a couple of schools of midwater fish, and maybe five Corydoras, could happily be maintained with few if any problems.>
Thanks again for your feedback, it stung a little but I very much appreciate the help.
<Then my work here is done.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Help my fish is dying - I can't help without more useful information!  -- 6/12/07 I have a Plecostomus floats on its side. <Not a good sign. How long has this been going on?> The tail fin is either nipped off or deteriorating off. <None of the fish you mention would below would likely cause this sort of injury (although I'm not sure what a "small ground feeder" is...); I'd be willing to bet this is tail rot, a condition typically caused by poor water quality. Have you used a quality liquid test kit (Aquarium Pharmaceuticals and Tetra both make good products) to measure the levels of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate in the water? The former should be at zero, while the latter can safely be as high as 20 ppm (though lower is better). How large is this tank and how often do you do water changes? What type of filtration is running on the tank? I need lots of information to be able to help you/your fish...> I have added three neon fish and a dojo fish to my tank that all ready had come with the Plecostomus another small ground feeder that has never changed sizes for the last three years and another fish not sure what it is. I haven't had any problems with them until I added this dojo and Neons. What should I do? <Test your water for starters. Most fish illnesses and diseases are caused by poor water quality; remedying this underlying environmental cause often times will solve the problems. However, I can't say for certain without additional information; see questions posed above. In the meantime, start reading: here's a good place to begin - http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsetupindex.htm Best regards, Jorie> Thanks Cassi

Pleco Problems   4/15/07 Hi! <<Hello, Aaron. Tom here.>> I've had my first 55-gal community freshwater tank for about 8 months now and I love watching all my fish interact.  I have 5 platies, 7 zebra Danios, 6 bleeding-heart tetras, 3 x-ray (official name?) tetras, 3 Glowlight tetras, and 3 Cory cats.  The last member of my tank that I'm having problems keeping is a rubber-lipped Pleco, Chaetostoma.  I just discovered my fourth one dead this morning.   <<Yep. That's a problem all right.>> I've only been keeping one at a time, but they keep dying 'the longest lasting about 2 months.  I don't know why they keep dying, I thought Plecos were supposed to be pretty hardy. <<Plecos are generally a very hardy and long-lived fish, Aaron.>> I do a 12-15 gal water change roughly every 7-10 days with a gravel vacuuming and clean some of the algae off of the glass.  I can never get all of it, plus some of the decor in the tank has plenty of algae on it, so I don't think I'm starving the Plecos.  I'll add the appropriate amounts of AmQuel +and Top Fin's pH Decrease when doing the water change.   <<I'd skip the Top Fin product, Aaron. Best not to toy around with the pH levels of your tap water. Fish do better at adapting to levels outside of their 'norms' than dealing with changes in the pH which depends on the buffering capacity of the water. Insufficient buffering can lead to pH spikes or crashes and these are as harmful as spikes in ammonia and nitrites.>> Water conditions are generally OK'¦pH is around 7.6, NH4 and NO2 levels are negligible, and I try to maintain NO3 to less than 20 ppm.   <<Keep in mind that NH4 (ammonium) and NH3 (ammonia) are different critters, Aaron. The combination of the two is referred to as 'total ammonia' and is what most common test kits detect. Though toxic, NH4 is less harmful to fish than NH3. The compound you want to really concern yourself with is the NH3. (For what it's worth, NH3 converts to NH4 at lower pH levels and reverts back as pH levels rise. Might not be an issue here but illustrates a case in point as to why it isn't good to artificially lower your tank's pH if you can't be certain that it will stay there. A sudden spike in pH can potentially lead to an associated spike in ammonia. A double whammy, if you will.)>> My water is moderately hard, roughly 100 -- 120 ppm.  I get all my fish from a local pet superstore that has the same water as I do, so most of the fish are already accustomed to the water conditions.  I feed the fish tetra flakes every morning, while occasionally dropping an Algae Thin or two for the Pleco (when I have one alive). Any suggestions would be great! <<One of the problems we face with new Plecos, in general, is that they can take a while to acclimate to new surroundings particularly if hiding places are hard to come by or non-existent. Typically, this manifests itself in the fish not eating. If you're getting your Plecos as new arrivals to the pet store, you could be buying fish that haven't eaten in quite some time and might be close to starvation. Transport and handling are very tough on fish and high levels of stress comes with the territory. First, make sure that the fish you purchase has been at the LFS long enough to have acclimated and, more especially, is eating normally. If you can't confirm this, I'd avoid making the purchase. Ideally, the fish will have been at the store for at least a couple of weeks before you plunge in. Second, I'd strongly recommend quarantining your new pet to make doubly sure that it's had time to acclimate and that it's healthy. Last, provide a good place in your display tank for the fish to hide and feel secure. By the way, I've a Sailfin Pleco that's wild about zucchini so you might consider providing a food like this rather than relying on algae wafers and the like. Might jump start the fish into eating and dramatically lowering its stress levels.>> Thanks, Aaron <<Happy to help, Aaron. Best of luck to you. Tom>>

Pleco health  info!   11/5/06 Hi <<Hello, Frank. Tom>> I'm having some problems keeping Plecos, and maybe you can help and tell me what I'm doing wrong. My water temp is 79 degrees and pH is 7.0. They seem to last a couple of months and then I lose them.  Is it maybe my water is too hard? I do have some Algae in  the tank and I also throw in algae wafers. I'm not sure what else to do. <<There's not a lot of information in your post, Frank, but I'll toss out a couple of tips/ideas. The tank temperature is fine and pH level is equally good provided it stays at 7.0 with little or no change. You don't mention how often you perform water changes and high nitrate levels can adversely affect pH, i.e. push it downward. (Make sure you use tap water or R.O. water for your changes. Distilled water should be avoided since it has no "buffering" capacity and will put your pH levels at risk.) Your water could be harder (re: GH levels) than your Plecos may prefer but these are pretty hardy and adaptive animals. A couple of months should be enough time for them to acclimate sufficiently. You mention 'some' algae and algae wafers as your pets' diets. You might try adding a slice of zucchini to the tank as well as spinach to bolster their diets. (Neither of these foods should be left in the tank more than a day or so without changing them for fresh food.) Since Plecos come from fast-moving streams in the wild, they like water movement and plenty of oxygen. An airstone or two for surface agitation would be helpful and a powerhead for water movement might also be appreciated. They will gulp air at the surface -- rather violently at times -- and probably utilize this oxygen to a limited degree for breathing. Primarily, this is 'gulped' for buoyancy purposes allowing them to attach themselves in a variety of positions in the tank, though. Finally, Plecos are nocturnal by nature. They tend to 'hide out' during the day and feed at night. They should be provided with 'hiding' places during daylight hours and kept away from light sources during the evening. (The first Pleco I had started off in a 20-gallon tank and made very short work of whatever algae was available. He soon 'graduated' to a 50-gallon tank and did the same service there. Unless yours are in a very large tank, I'd be curious as to why you have much algae for them to feed on unless they're, in fact, not feeding. Something I'd look into.)>> Thanks,  Frank <<You're welcome and good luck. Tom>>

Pleco Problem?   9/11/06 Hello!  I have a 30 gallon, year old aquarium with 3 Bala sharks, <Will be too small for these three in time> one Pleco, two spotted catfish, and one cherry barb (it's buddy died recently).  The Pleco, otherwise healthy in appearance, has a white/yellow layer on his belly, <Mmm... may be natural...> and his colours seem slightly lighter all over than normal. <Good observation... these fishes will change to lighter in bright light, light colored surroundings, under stress... I'd be checking your water quality here> He is still eating and behaving normally.  The pet store suggested an Ick treatment <I would not do/use this... too toxic and this is not Ich... or all your fishes would exhibit symptoms> that seems to have done little but maybe give his belly more of a yellow hue.  I haven't been able to find out why the barb died, other than being chunky, he seemed healthy too. Thank you for any help you can offer. Lindsay <Water changes, water tests... What species of Pleco is this? Loricariids don't like hard, alkaline water like the minnow fishes you have. Bob Fenner>

Ill Loricariid   8/1/06 Hi. <<Greetings, Emma. Tom>> I have a leopard Sailfin Plec who is about 5 - 6 yrs old, lives in a community tank.  Over the last few days I have noticed the tank glass  getting dirty inside, he usually cleans it well.  Tonight I have noticed he has gone very, very pale. At first I thought it may be the sunlight coming into the tank, however I pulled the curtains and he has stayed the same pale colour. <<The "paling" in color is almost certainly stress related rather than tied to a specific pathogenic problem. Not all that uncommon with Plecos, in general, but pretty disconcerting when you see it for the first time...in an otherwise healthy animal, no less.>> The water temp is between 25 and 27degC; normal for my tank.  No new fish have been introduced or plants, in fact, nothing has changed in the tank at all. The water test is also normal for my tank. <<When a problem occurs and nothing has seemingly changed to cause it, I look for the "unusual". In this case, Emma, the one thing you haven't mentioned is your Pleco's diet. All fish, regardless of what their primary food source is, appreciate variety to some degree or another. Cichlids, for example, kept on a perfectly healthy, yet boring, diet, can/will become ill, sometimes to the point of death. With nothing else to "hang my hat on" here, Emma, I'd look into a change of diet to see if your Pleco snaps out of it. If, by any chance, you observe something else that you can share that might give us more to go on, please post back to us. I, for one, am interested in this one.>>    Please can you help Emma <<My best. Tom>> 
Re: ? FW... What? Disease... no prev. corr., no prev. title... Search FW dailies to match up... Ahh... Ill Loricariid   8/1/06
Hi <<Hi, Emma. Tom once again.>> Thank you so much for your reply.... <<Any time, Emma, and happy to do so.>> I always feed him on algae tablets, cucumber and courgette but a few days ago a friend gave me some home grown VERY large courgette/ marrow.   <<Which, as you are no doubt aware, is nothing like what you purchase at the produce store. Tough, fibrous and tastes like (fill in the blank). :)>> He tucked into it but on looking at him very closely something strange has happened to his mouth.   <<Without going further, I can pretty much guess...>> It seems to be torn and there are small possibly fungal growths around his mouth.  He can't suck on to the side of the tank.  I have tried holding him and putting food on his mouth but with no luck he just will not suck.  He seems to be starving to death.... <<To put you a little more at ease, starvation isn't our immediate problem. He's most likely torn up his mouth on the "homegrown" courgette and, while laying on the bottom of the tank - as he is wont to do - has "inherited" a bacterial or fungal infection. Aquarium salt is effective but Plecos aren't very tolerant of it and we've got enough stress going. MarOxy, Maracyn, Furanace (Furanace) or Sulpha-based antibiotics may be used for this. My recommendation - albeit not from "firsthand" experience - would be MarOxy. It's purported to be effective against external bacterial infections as well as being an anti-fungal, and (importantly) should be easy to come by.>> He is also getting very frustrated and thrashing round the tank.   <<Understandable. You'll want to start the treatment ASAP.>> I really don't know what to do. I am not sure if it is the courgette/marrow I have given him.  He has normal courgette from the super market all the time with no problem. <<Last time around, I mentioned that I look toward the "unusual". You gave it to me. Courgette/marrow that you purchase at the market is harvested at a very immature stage of its growth. Not the same "critter" as the veggie (actually "fruit") that's left on the vine for a long time. Very, very different textures and possibly/probably the cause of the problem. Regardless of the "cause", we've got an "effect" and it needs to be treated promptly.>> It's desperate to watch him, I just don't know what to do. Any advice I would be most grateful. <<You have the best that I've got right now, Emma.>> Thank you Emma <<Keep me posted, please. Best regards. Tom>> Re: Ill Loricariid  8/2/06 Again thank you, <<No problem, Emma.>> I will get that in the morning for him.  Will this treatment affect my other fish at all?  All community fish. <<Worst case (thus far), Emma, this is Columnaris, which is highly contagious. Ideally, you'd medicate any single fish in a quarantine tank (QT). I think it best that you medicate the entire tank, removing any carbon filtration you have going. Follow the manufacturer's instructions with the medication. You'll be instructed to replace the carbon media/filter at the end of the medication period to remove the med's from the tank. Following this, discard the carbon media/filter. It can't be re-activated or "cleaned" and is, therefore, worthless to you. Also, follow the water change protocol that should be included with the instructions. Typically, this will call for a change of about 30% prior to starting the treatment.>> Emma <<Tom>> 

Mysterious Bristlenose death... African Cichlid sys. as well   7/12/06 Hi, I hope you can help me figure out what went wrong... <Will try> Yesterday, I brought home a healthy-looking 3.5" Bristlenose to add to my tank, which currently houses 5 small African cichlids. <Mmm, don't often mix... I also keep African Cichlids...> I floated the bag in the tank for about an hour and a half, gradually adding tank water, before releasing him.  He seemed fine yesterday; he explored his new home and found himself a cave in the rockwork.  I offered him an algae disk last night, which he didn't touch, but I wasn't too alarmed, since I know it often takes a day or two before new fish will eat.  Anyway, this morning, I awoke to discover him quite dead.  I immediately tested the water and obtained the following results: NH3 - 0 NO2 - 0 NO3 - 0-5 ppm pH - 8.0 <... too high. Most Loricariids live in soft/er, acidic water. Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/loricariids.htm> Temp - 79 F I then did a 20% water change and added a bit of aquarium salt. <And don't "like" salts...>   All of my other fish are fine.  I would appreciate any insight as to what went wrong.  I would like to keep one of these cute little guys; is there anything else I should do next time? Thanks, Kate <I would look for a larger specimen of one of the species that lives in similar, or closer quality water... Likely a Hypostomus or Pterygoplichthys sp. of at least five inches in length to start with... provide it with adequate hiding space (perhaps a PVC pipe it can get into w/o the Cichlids... or, resolve yourself to do as I do... hand-scrub down your tanks once a week during water changes. Bob Fenner>

Sick Plec - 08/16/2005 I got a new common Pleco (about 8") inherited from a 125 gal. tank I am starting in my basement, but put him in my 55 until it is ready. There were 3 other small common Plecos in there before adding him (I know it was overkill, but I fed them enough algae discs to make it.) <Feeding isn't so much the issue, as aggression.> Well the smallest of the four died the next biggest, then the other, and now the big guy is sick. His eyes are very cloudy, and his stomach is puffy. <Many, many possibilities, here....  test your water, first and foremost - ammonia an nitrite must be ZERO, nitrate less than 20ppm....  adding such a large, waste-producing animal may have caused your tank to cycle again.  Another major possibility is Ich, which typically only affects a plec's gills; possibly internal parasites or bacterial infection.  Adding an unquarantined fish is always risky when it comes to any disease.> I can't find anywhere online what to do, you are my last hope, he's not going to make it much longer if even through tonight. He lays on his back and just breathes, but is not eating. Can you help me out? <Test your water, fix if necessary....  Beyond that, I would consider treating for Ich - it's very, very difficult to know if that is the problem, though....  and there are so very many other things it could be.  From your descriptions, though, I doubt if you would have success treating if it were something internal, at this point.> I appreciate it. <I wish I had better advice.> Mark Cygan, Olathe, KS <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina, who grew up in/near Augusta, KS.... I do miss those Kansas storms!>

Sailfin Pleco problem, Pleco Problems? Howdy, <How Y'all doin. Scott F. here for you!> Great website, w/ great info. I've seen that you have given helpful advice to tons of people and I hope that you can do the same for me. I have a 29 gallon freshwater, planted, community tank. My 4" Sailfins tail has turned reddish orange at the very tips on the top and bottom. His activity seems to be normal although he doesn't limit his eating schedule to just night time. Diet consists of algae, algae discs, and the occasional zucchini. Ammonia, Nitrite, and pH levels all proper. Regular 1.5 - 2 week water changes (RO). No sudden changes in any aspect (except for maybe slight water temp fluctuation.) Aeration seems to be OK, Sailfin and other fish seem to be breathing at normal rates. That is about all the info I can think to report. Thank you for your time. Sincerely, Bill Walker <Well, Bill-it sounds like your water conditions and husbandry are excellent, the Pleco seems to be eating well, and his diet seems okay. I cant be 100% certain from here, but I'll bet the red is just a color variation for your particular fish, or perhaps this is a pattern unique to a specific geographic "race" of Plecos. I have had leopard Sailfins that developed a reddish tinge on the upper part of their tails, and they were fine. The fact that the color is on both tips, and no where else on an apparently healthy fish is a good sign, IMO. In the absence of any disease "symptoms", I'd say that there is nothing wrong with your fish. Do keep a close eye on him, and be prepared to take action if disease becomes evident. Perhaps you should check the store where you acquired him to see if the other Plecos show that coloration, or check with fellow hobbyists who own this fish. But I'll bet he's fine!>

Plec Problems We have recently moved a 7 inch Plec to a new tank. All other fish in the new tank (36"x 13" X 18") are doing well. However, the Plec, which we have had since 3" long is struggling. It is breathing fast and recently seemed to shed a thin mucus layer over most of the back. Colour seems to change quickly from dark to caramel and back. <The first thing to check is your water parameters - ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate may be too high in this new (and likely cycling) tank; this would definitely cause issues like this in your Plec.> Changes in the tank - its now in a much brighter tank with higher flow.  Rocks are lava type. <Might want to give your Plec some smoother territory; the rough pumice will tear up his belly, if it's the only place for him to hide.  Please consider giving him some driftwood, both to give him some safe cover and to supplement his diet.> No plants.  It was in a darker tank with plants and different rocks. <Then this may be attributable to lack of cover alone - definitely see to it that he has safe, comfy areas to hide during the day.> Is this a case of lack of food (there is plenty of mess in the tank in the  morning) and we are feeding algae pellets and now a piece of cucumber? <Sounds like he's eating well, no problem there.> Any chance the much brighter tank is causing the problem? <Not in and of itself, but again, if he doesn't have anywhere where he feels safe, he will be unhappy and stressed, more prone to illness, etc.> A much loved fish so your help would be much appreciated.  Thanks Chris <Do please check your water parameters, that is of great importance.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

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