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

FAQs on "Pleco" Disease: Loricariid Disease 1, Loricariid Disease 2, Loricariid Disease 3, Loricariid Disease 4,
FAQs on "Pleco" Disease by Category: Diagnosis, 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,

Many Loricariids require soft/er, acidic water conditions... But do check: some live in hard, alkaline water, and the commercially produced species have wide tolerance.

Small specimens can live in a few tens of gallons; larger species need hundreds of gallons to prosper.

These are incredibly "messy" fishes that NEED oversized, vigorous filtration, circulation and REGULAR (weekly) water changes. 

NEED CLEAN, highly oxygenated water 

Pleco with Heavy Breathing     2/24/17
My common Pleco has been breathing hard a while. What I mean by that is that her gills move rapidly and her mouth does too.
<Do try (a) doing a substantial water change; and (b) making sure there is plenty of aeration, and if necessary upgrading such using an airstone or spray bar; and (c) checking the water isn't too warm, 22-26C/72-79F being optimal for most of the common Plec species and varieties. Many aquarists keep their Plecs much too warm, with the result their fish are somewhat stressed, especially as the fish get bigger and consume more oxygen than they did as youngsters.>
She appears to be normal other than that. Her appetite is good. Her body is light at times. She gets faded patches on her and faded stripes. It appears to get better in the dark, but they are still there. She does have a more white patch towards her tail (it seems different colored than the others), but it is not raised. She doesn't appear to be thin. No breathing at the surface. I am current trying to watch her poop for parasites. It appears it is always the color of the food she eats, and it occasionally gets small clear connections between.
<Normal.>
But not all the time. Would that still mean parasite?
<Hard to say, but de-worming is usually worthwhile with Plecs and L-numbers generally.>
She seems normal, just breathing hard all the time. I just started feeding her veggies. I didn't realize the importance of them. She was just eating algae flakes. I am highly concerned. I would be devastated if something happened to her. She lives by herself right now, she has since I have had her for the last year. She wasn't very healthy when i got her. What I mean is she was pale all over, never fed, and lived in ammonia (this was at her old home). Here current tank has 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and, 40 nitrates.
The tank recently had tons of nitrAtes! Very high, I could not tell if it was over 80, or over 160.
I don't know how long it was like this. It could have been a long time. I started doing daily water changes and got it to 40. It appears I have to do one everyday to keep it to 40. There are no or low nitrAtes in the city water. I know my tank is over stocked.
<See above; Plecs are riverine fish that are sensitive to low-oxygen levels and will breathe faster (and in extremis, gulp air) under warm, stuffy conditions.>
I am about to move her to a 150 gallon, but I don't want to move her if she is sick. I bought this tank just for her! She also jumped out of her tank a few months ago. I do not know how long she was out. Could this is damaged her gills, and cause rapid breathing?
<Certainly gill damage, e.g., from Velvet, can cause these sorts of symptoms, but I'd review environment first.>
We also moved a couple months ago, but her tank is just like it was. Could nitrate poisoning have caused this? I thought maybe she had gill flukes but I don't see her scratching.... Since their gills are underneath them would they just rub on the rocks? I don't know what to do! I am worried sick, I have been researching for days! What should I do? Thank you!
<Welcome.>
PS. OK so I have been watching her poop. I have been giving her sweet potatoes so I could see the color of her poop better. Most of the time, like 80% of her poop is the color of the food. However about 20% of the time her poop is the color of the food with clear, whitish sections in between and sometimes you just get a very thin, kind of curly looking dirty white stand.
<Mucous; it's fairly normal for Plecs and L-numbers to consume silt and organic detritus in the tank, and this binds with mucous to form stringy parts to their normal faeces. Some bogwood to rasp away at is worthwhile, offering extra roughage!>
Way thinner than normal poop. And just like I said in the last email. She is active and eating just fine. Parasites? Stress? I don't know. Would this cause the heavy breathing?
<Hope the above helps. Cheers, Neale.>
re: Pleco with Heavy Breathing     2/24/17

So my temperature is 76 always. There should be a good amount of oxygen because I have bug filters on the tank with a lot of surface movement.
<Do you mean "big" filters?>
Should you suggest moving her to the new tank where she may be more comfortable?
<Adult Plecs need at least 55 US gallons, and realistically 75+ gallons.
They also need a filter with turnover rated at least 8 times the volume of the tank per hour; i.e., for a 55 US gallon tank, the filter should be rated at 440 gallons/hour. Obviously filter media needs to be mature.>
Also, I'm assuming you mean it would be a good idea to deworm her? What would I use? Is it safe to do it not being 100% sure?
<Antihelminth medications are widely sold in aquarium shops; for example Prazi Pro. They are generally safe to use.>
Also is it normal for her to hold her head up? She holds if off the ground all the time. Like an inch usually.
<Sometimes this means the bottom layer of the tank has poor water quality, for example little water flow, or an abrasive substrate that irritates the fish, as is sometimes the case where "funky" coloured gravels are used instead of smooth river grave. Review, and act accordingly. Cheers, Neale.>
re: Pleco with Heavy Breathing     2/24/17

She started holding her head up with the heavy breathing. And it is common for nitrate poisoning to cause breathing problems right?
<Nitrate isn't normally toxic to catfish like Plecs; regular water changes should dilute nitrate sufficiently. Of course nitrate levels above 100 mg/l aren't healthy, even for robust fish, hence the need to control the amount of food that goes into the tank, the frequency of water changes, and the overall volume of the tank.>
Thank you!
<Welcome. Neale.>

Plecos dying suddenly      2/20/17
Hi Crew,
<Hey Katelin>
I have 2 tanks with Bristlenose Plecos one with a mated pair and 4 Cory cats and some of the babies that I was letting grow out. The Bristlenose fry suddenly started dying last night, I've had 4 deaths so far and the rest seem very ill, including my mated pair whom I've had over 2 years. I had noticed odd white specs all over my driftwood in that tank and didn't think much of it but now I'm wondering if it was a sign as the Plecos all have tiny white dots- very hard to see and not many but they are there.
<Mmm; no to their being the same disease... white spots on the wood and Ancistrus... BUT, the decomposition of the wood may well have a direct or indirect effect on water quality, the issue w/ your BNs. I would be checking what parameters re water here that you can, and in any case removing the wood for now, executing a good percentage water change (like half) while vacuuming the substrate... to remove organics>
I know driftwood cannot get ich, but didn't know if the eggs could have been attached to it like they would the gravel?
<Mmm; Ich is very often present in captive systems; just in a non-clinical phase... enough "stress" level and it expresses itself... in numbers and aggressiveness>
I have not introduced anything new into my tank for 1 year 6 months+ (including driftwood) and the Cory cats seem to be acting fine. Before the sudden deaths I noticed the Plecos had started going to the surface for air a lot and were hanging out at water line, some even with their heads above the water.
<The above... removal, water change: Stat!>

I know the tank was overstocked but I did one-two large water changes a day to combat any issues and my water parameters were always correct when I tested.
<Ah good; and who knows what... that is untestable by you re the second>
I was actually about to take them all to the LFS when this happened. My male albino also looks bloated and his tail area is very red in color, plus his sides are white almost as if he has lost his pigmentation. To a degree he has always been like that on his sides, but it seems to be worse. I took a lot of the Plecos out and moved them into other tanks
<Very good>

and have done a big water change already and will do another before bed. Should I treat this like ich and raise the temp to 86?
<I would not; as the fish going near the surface... the higher temp. will result in higher metabolism and less dissolved oxygen>

I have raised it a little but am afraid as they already seem to have trouble breathing. They are acting very lethargic and not eating and I am worried more will die if I don't treat them soon. I did add some extra air pumps to their tanks to increase oxygen as well. Thanks for any advice you can give me, it is greatly appreciated.
Sincerely,
Kate
<The added air is a good idea; and moving them to known good quality settings even better. I do not think the problem here is really pathogenic, but environmental. Bob Fenner>
Re: Plecos dying suddenly      2/20/17

Just an update- lost 4 more Plecos since I wrote you, mostly the smaller ones that are only a couple months old,
<A good clue... re the cause here being env.>
but also a few up to 5-6 months.
However all seem very ill, not eating, lethargic, showing some very small white granule like spots, and have noticed some with eyes that appear sunken. A lot of the dead ones eye's are sunken into their sockets and have dark grey patches of slime, not sure if this is just normal with death or not. Thanks so much for the help!
Kate
<MOVE THEM. Bob Fenner>
Re: Plecos dying suddenly   2/22/17

Thanks for the response...I have lost about six more from the main tank and tank I moved others into, the tank I moved them in seems to be stable now, have not lost any for over 24 hours, but lost 2 from main tank that I found this a.m. The tank has the weird tiny white stuff all over the filter, glass, heater, and floating through water and it looks like what is on the Plecos.
<Organic... likely decomposition products from the wood>
The Plecos have more of it on them and even have it in their mouths. The cories are also starting to get white spots and acting sick.
It looks like the exact stuff that was on the wood as well. What Im wondering is, should I set up a new tank and new filter, new everything to put them in even though I won't have the beneficial bacteria?
<I wouldn't... the previous mentions of removing the wood et al. should do it>
(To even assume the bacteria in there is beneficial at all at this point) Or leave them in their tank and continue with the gravel vacs and water changes twice daily even though they still seem to be gasping for air, ill and dying?
<You did remove the wood...>
Do I need to treat for ich, and if so what is safe to use?
<No treatment necessary or advised. I think I've mentioned this already as well>
Thank you so much for your help, I am very worried about doing the wrong thing and losing more of my fish.
Katelin
<Understood. Bob Fenner>
Re: Plecos dying suddenly   2/22/17

Hi Bob,
So I figured out what was in tank- they are some type of worm, I'm guessing gill/body fluke due to their symptoms and appearance. They were difficult to see, had to use high power flashlight and magnifying glass but there were definitely worms squiggling everywhere and one was attempting to burrow into my boyfriend's hand (actually how we discovered and starting investigating further.) I have moved them to a new tank, but since they are already infected do you have a recommendation for medication safe to use on Plecos and cories, including my Pygmy Cory? I am in the U.S. Much
appreciated.
Katelin
<Yes; there are a few Anthelminthics of use... Prazi/quantel is a fave. I'd have you read here first:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwwormdisfaqs.htm
and the linked files above; where you lead yourself... till you're aware of your options. Do this soon.
Bob Fenner>
Re: Plecos dying suddenly    2/23/17

Bob,
Will read the link you gave me, thanks SO much for all your help
Katelin
<A pleasure to share, aid your efforts Katelin. 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
Tammie
<Most welcome. Neale.>

Re: Albino Bristlenose plecostomus      2/1/17
Thank you for the prompt response!!
<Welcome.>
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...        5/3/15
We put some new fish in the tank a few weeks ago and all but one of the four new fish died. The majority of the fish that were already there before have also died off over the past week. When they all started dying, I moved all of the fish to a new tank for a few days while I thoroughly cleaned this tank and let the filter run for a few days. Shortly after putting the
remaining fish back in the tank, three more died and my Pleco developed small white spots on his eyes. Now he has one red bump on each eye. Do you have any ideas what might be happening? As soon as all of this started I started testing the water everyday and everything keeps coming up fine..
Michelle
<Hello Michelle. Need some data here. At first glance this all sounds like New Tank Syndrome. All very generic symptoms of environmental stress. The fact your photo is a picture of a Pterygoplichthys species catfish, which grows to 45 cm/18 inches within two years suggests you have a very large aquarium. Or should have, anyway, as anything smaller than 55 gallons won't work (too much ammonia excreted), and anything smaller than 75 gallons will look filthy (these fish turn defecation into an Olympic sport). So please confirm the aquarium size. Also, your idea of "fine" might not be my idea
of "fine", so rather than a subjective editorial, can you let me have the actual nitrite, pH and hardness values. These are important. Things like Neons have totally different requirements to Guppies, so a tank that contains both will be bad for one of them. Make sense? Nitrite values tell me something about how well the filter is doing its job. Anything above 0 is toxic and explanation enough for sickness and fish deaths, while nitrite values above 0.5 mg/l are quickly lethal to fish, killing them within days of exposure. Put another way: if one fish dies for mysterious reasons, you could be unlucky. But when numerous fish die within a few days, it's almost always the environment. Exposure to toxins of some sort, whether intrinsic (ammonia, nitrite) or extrinsic (household cleaning products, paint fumes).
Conceivably, you can introduce diseases with batches of new aquarium fish, but almost always these are obvious problems such as Whitespot or Velvet. Even then, you wouldn't expect all the fish to die for no obvious reason.
Instead you'd see a succession of fish coming down with obvious signs of parasitic infection. That's not what happened here, so we're back to the environment as the problem. Review, and act accordingly. Cheers, Neale.>

re: Pleco       5/3/15
Nitrate is just above 0,
<Check your test kit. This is virtually impossible in a 55-gallon tank with an adult Plec.>

nitrite is at 0, GH is at 75, KH is at 60, pH is at 7.0, and ammonia is at 0.
<Given the dubious quality of the nitrate reading, I'd be skeptical of any of these. Could well be the source of your problems: thinking things are fine, when they're clearly not. Plecs are filth factories. They eat massive amounts of green and dried foods, and produce a lot of solid waste as well as dissolved metabolites. Unless there's massive amounts of plant growth, by which I mean you're pulling out overgrown plants pretty much daily, there's no way nitrate will be zero. Nitrate is the end product of biological filtration, as you probably know. Only water changes dilute it, and unless you change 100% of the water, you reduce nitrate level by a certain amount, you don't reduce it to zero. That's why I simply don't believe your nitrate reading. Double check you're using it right, and if
you get the same answer, then the test kit is shot.>
Currently they are in a 55 gallon (they being the Pleco, a rainbow shark, and two unidentified fish that I have attached a picture of),
<Both Trichopodus trichopterus, the "Three Spot Gourami". Nice fish, hardy, but males can be aggressive in small tanks.>
but we do have a 100 gallon tank that we will be buying soon.
<Much better.>
We inherited these fish from my parents as they are moving a few states over and it's kind of difficult to move fish that far. Currently the Pleco is about 10 inches long, 3 years old.
<Stunted somewhat. Quite common, especially when left to "scavenge" or eat algae rather than properly fed. Nonetheless, even at this size will be producing a lot of waste. Anyway, I'm 99% sure the environment is the issue here, notwithstanding the test kit results. The low hardness is a little troubling too; do bear in mind that low hardness can mean an unstable pH, and sudden pH drops are harmful to fish. Low hardness and acidic pH levels also reduce the efficiency of filter bacteria.>
Our tank is about 5 feet wide, just over 2 feet tall.
Michelle
<Cheers, Neale.>

 

Plecs gill has popped out  6/24/13
I have a problem with my Plec that I cant seem to find an answer to so any thoughts would retreat please, it's gill on the right has been swollen for a few weeks but now it seems to have completely popped out I think see pic, He seems ok and is behaving normally, he is in a tank 140l with 1 kissing gourami 2 opal gourami 3 golden barbs and 2 goldfish, one of the goldfish has a small growth on his side but has had this since I inherited them over 18mths ago so I don't know if there is a link there.
Thanks for reading and any help you can offer x
Lisa
<Hello Lisa. "Gill Curl" is almost always environmental; specifically, the fish in question is kept in an aquarium that's too small, inadequately filtered, and/or not given enough water changes. Given an adult Plec needs upwards of 200 litres, minimum, to do well, my money would be on a combination of all three, especially when you factor in the other fish,
some of which, like the Kissing Gourami and Goldfish, need a fair amount of space themselves. No "treatment" as such; Gill Curl usually fixes itself once conditions improve. If you can't move the Plec to a bigger tank in your home, a phone call to your local aquarium shop may be useful in rehoming; in the UK, the Maidenhead Aquatics chain usually takes in fish and rehouse them without any hassle. Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: Plecs gill has popped out– 6/24/13
Thanks for your help, i am moving the goldfish to the pond outside so hopefully this will help and i will save up for a bigger tank. Many thanks
Lisa x
<Ah, sounds like a good plan. Good luck! Neale.>

Tank troubles, iatrogenic    3/14/12
Hello, I was given a tank a couple of years ago with a group of fish including 1 now 10inch id shark
<Grows to a few feet... why don't you, others search, as directed, on WWM ahead of writing us?>

(he was alot
<No such word>
 smaller when i got the tank) 4 Tetras and a large Pleco 8 inches . I wasn't told anything about fish keeping just keep the temperature right do water changes watch out for signs of infection (knowing what i do now i wish i did my research earlier).
<Honest>
My tank is 4ft by 2ft by 1ft. Since i upgraded to this tank. A few problems have occurred.  Iv never had disease in the tank. In all the time i had it, However i decided to buy some new tetras and then the problems seem to start (fin fot).
<Environmental...>
Also my Pleco fights with my Id shark  and in diving around the tank damaged the end of his two front fins very slightly. It appeared to be heeling very well so i didn't put any treatments in the tank as i was already treating for the fin rot and i didn't want to add more chemicals after reading the id shark having no scales is very sensitive to treatments
<Ahh!>
 and i don't own a hospital tank. The end of the fin healed over but after some days turned red on the end of both fins. Also he seems to be covered in tiny air bubbles. Im not sure if this is normal.
<Not; again, env.>

Apart from this he eats like a horse, Holds his fins out and dances for me still and is showing no other signs of disease. After seeing the red develop on his 2 fin tips i treated the tank with anti bacterial for ulcers and infections and so on (what the pet store advised). I cant get rid of the red in his 2 fin tips, Im presuming it is an infection.
<READ here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/PangCatDisF.htm
and all the linked files above; compatibility>
After treating him twice no change i feel stuck not knowing what to do help please!
<... help yourself>
Also i added two albino red fin sharks to the tank last week  just over an inch long
<Likely will be inhaled, killed by the Pangasiid>

(since i have the tetras who are small i didn't see a problem with the bigger fish eating them he leaves everyone alone mostly) All was great they seem to hide alot but i read that was normal. Last night before i went to bed they were both swimming around happily playing, In the morning i woke up and found one of the small albino sharks dead. The only sign of possible death i can see is bleeding under the skin where i think the heart is only no where else. His colours are still bright a beautiful like before. Im worried something is going on in the tank now. I love my 2 large fish alot i don't want anything to happen with them. Also i never knew much about water testing and when i read online or go to the pet store Im abit overwhelmed with so many different things with expensive prices! i don't have alot of money, Please can you advise me of the main and most important tests i need to carry out to determine what is going on in my tank and tips how to treat my Pleco and save my tank before all hell breaks lose and everyone dies.Thank you for your time
<Learn to/use the search tool, indices on WWM, and run your writing through a spell- and grammar checker before sending to us if writing again. Bob Fenner>
Re: Tank troubles. Why we eat the rude    3/14/12

Thank you for your rude reply, Firstly I know exactly how big the catfish grows that's why I didn't search this.. I didn't even ask you for the size so not sure why you needed to be rude there.I was nervous about posting anywhere else in fear of a rude response and I find it hard to use your site and read through things to find what I need unless sent there by google!. So I thought it would be better to describe my tank and get the right advice and ask you my self! Thanks for the English lesson, I wont be writing your site again for advice :) not sure why you linked me to the Pangasiid page i have already been there a million times. It is the Pleco who is sick not the id shark as I said in my previous email to you. Have a nice day!
<And you>

Swordtails golden nugget... ? Env./hlth of both I guess 1/6/12
Hi I know this sound like a weird combo this will be sorted, but at the moment I keep 5 golden nuggets
<Suckermouth Catfishes, Baryancistrus sp.?>

( unfortunately now four) a group of seven syrillis cories, along with roughly 5 large female and a mixture of baby swordtails.
To the point I recently have lost a few swordtails to a problem that creeps up every now and again where my large swordtails look slightly unwell then within 24-48 hours there scales fall off and there flesh looks flakey as if it's falling off but this only happens from there belly up and from tail towards head that's the direction the problem
Move along there body over this short period of time, I have been keeping these fish together for over three years with no problems what is causing this?
<Mmm... could be pathogenic... there are some bacterial issues and protozoan parasites that appear like this... Requires microscopic examination of sample smears to detect/identify specifically. Or, could be a matter of water quality issues... Like quite different conditions than the catfishes>
My next question is could my golden nugget have suffered a random heart attack it had been fine as usual and died in the blink of an eye when I was looking at my tank no joke so I am baffled to the nuggets problem.
<Could>
My tank is 220 liters plus extra ten from filter which is a Fluval 405 my water is fine and constant and doesn't change I do two to three water changes per week between 20-50 liters and once a month I do a 50% ( expensive I no but only the best for my golden nuggets) No2 0ppm No3 0ppm ph 6.8
<Ahh, this could be the problem w/ your Swords. Xiphophorus need hard water...>
( my water is very hard in my area so I struggle to get soft water
<How do you do this? All aquarium life needs some Biominerals, alkalinity>
but I am setting the nuggets up a 350 liter river setup and paying for ro on just there tank (once that tank frees up when I get my new 2500 litre Oscar Arowana setup)) no ammonia no chlorine chloramine all heavy metals are barely detectable for what I can test.
Any thing you can suggest
<See above for my questions, input thus far>
I generally cure any illness using natural methods i.e. I have cured hith in many a friends fish just using Epsom salts I even saved my local fish shops Oscar) any help too the swordtail problem would be appreciated, any conformation on the nuggets would be appreciated but I know they are a niche for information
Thanks yours sincerely aleck Fletcher
<The swordtails really need to be raised in a separate system... Cooler, harder water... Bob Fenner>
Re: Swordtails golden nugget
1/6/12
As soon as I repair my another spare 180 litre I'll move the swords thank you very much, what would I be looking for under the scope ?
<... please learn to/use the search tool and indices on WWM>
I have never had experience under the scope but have done swim bladder deflation on my Frontosas before so should be capable with research on scraping etc
<Good>
but what exactly under the scope am I looking for?
<... posted>
How do I soften the water?
<This also>
I just have lots of plants and have homemade soil substrate under the gravel and lots of bogwood and it just seems to sit around 6.6-6.8 I'd like it bit lower but cannot afford r/o how hard should I also make the water for the swords cooler?
<Yes, depending on the current temp....>
What sort of temp mines at 28c ATM and it goes up to 30-32 in summer and it cools at night to 28-29c, any more clues to nugget death would be appreciated too.
<... see/read on WWM under Loricariid health/disease.>
I'll move the swords once I repair there old tank
<Cheers, BobF>

(email 1) Baby Plecostomus Deaths 12/16/11
Hello Bob and Crew,
<Salve,>
This incident happened a few years ago, so please forgive my inability to completely remember all specific details.
I have researched the issue in my fish/aquarium books and extensively on the web, but have never been able to find any information on what caused the odd death of these fish....I am still curious as to what could have happened to the little guys.
<Okay.>
I had purchased two small baby Blue Eyed Albino Plecos If I recall correctly they were Bristlenose Plecos. I believe they were somewhere between 1/2 and 3/4 of an inch. They initially looked healthy and acted and ate well. I think it was somewhere between one and two weeks later when the first fish started to have issues
<As is often the case with catfish.>
It developed a thin and increasingly dark band around the mid area of its body, which looked as if it was situated just beneath the skin I am fairly sure the band was just before the Dorsal Fin, although if my memory does not serve me correctly it would have been just behind that at the front portion of the fin. This band seemed to get tighter and tighter as he seemed to be trying to grow around it while it constricted him. It seemed and looked just like a rubber band was wrapped around him and was squeezing him to death yet the dark band was definitely internal. As this was happening he lost his appetite and became increasingly pale (from the usual yellow coloration to white), until he died which I believe was 3 to 4 days later. Just before the first baby died, the other baby developed the dark band and died in exactly the same manor.
There was nothing in the tank they could have ingested that they should not have.
<With juvenile catfish the problems are twofold. Firstly, they're living in what is normally the low oxygen part of the tank. That's because many filters, particularly hang-on-the-back filters, don't suck in water from the bottom of the tank. So the bottom layer tends to have little current and little mixing with the oxygen-rich surface of the tank. Undergravel filters are much better because they suck water through the substrate, but such filters aren't much used these days. So if you want to keep catfish in peak health, especially juveniles, you need to ensure strong water current right down to the bottom of the tank. Try placing a filter close to the bottom of the tank or installing an airstone or two right at the bottom of the tank so water is pulled upwards with the bubbles. The second issue is feeding. When newly hatched, the Ancistrus or Corydoras fry can feed on algae and micro-organisms they find in the aquarium. But as they grow, they need more of these foods, and eventually they exhaust the supply of edible microbes of the type they want to eat. At some point, and it is indeed around a couple weeks post-hatching, they can start to starve unless you make a special effort to provide them with 4-6 meals of appropriate type and size.>
I attempted to treat with small doses of Melafix and Pimafix, to no avail. The area pet stores I had contacted had also never heard of this condition and were not able to help.
<>
The fish were in a 5 gallon tank, which I was planning to keep them in until they grew large enough to escape the mouth of the 6 inch Raphael Catfish in my main tank (who is soon to be 19 years old!).
<Not bad!>
I set this 5 gallon up only when needed as a hospital or quarantine tank, using 3 to 4 gallons of water from my main tank - The main tank is a fully cycled 29 gallon which has been up and running for many years. I then top the 5 gallon tank off with 1 to 2 gallons of new water. The main tank has never had any water quality issues when tested although the PH in this area does run a bit high at about 7.6. I have had a few other Plecos over the years (including the Albino Bristlenose currently in my tank), who have never seemed to have problems with the higher PH, although they were much larger than these little guys when I acquired them.
<>
The 5 gallon the babies were in had a power filtration system with floss and carbon suitable for the tank size I also had added a small piece of floss from the 29 gallon tanks filter to aid biological filtration. I had a heater in the tank which was sized for 2 to 5 gallon tanks, and had a factory set temperature of 78 degrees. I always use water conditioner whenever adding water or making a water change.
<>
I have been an aquarium hobbyist since I was a very small child, and have never seen or heard of such a thing. What possibly could have happened to these fish?
<See above.>
Thank you so much for your help and advice, and for your wonderful website!
~Connie
<Most welcome! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: (email 1) Baby Plecostomus Deaths 12/16/11

Hello, Neale. Thank you for the quick reply.
<You are welcome.>
Could it all have been due to the oxygen issue you mentioned?
<Yes. Low oxygen level will stress fish without immediately killing them. Ancistrus are adapted to cool, shallow, fast-flowing streams with lots of oxygen. They're tough fish, and adults can do well in ordinary aquaria. But the juveniles are less resilient.>
I don't believe lack of food was an issue....I had been feeding them small bits of algae wafer, some crumbled flake food, and 'smooshed' frozen peas minus the pea casing - all of which they were eating well.
<Perhaps.>
I monitored them closely (checking on them several times a day), making sure they had food at all times .
I also made sure older food was removed and replaced with fresh.
Thank you for the information. If I ever purchase any Plecos that small again I will certainly include an air stone! I am also going to add another air stone to my 29 gallon tank for my adult Pleco, just to be safe!
I'm curious to know physically what this brown band and 'cinching' of their bodies could have been,
<Starvation, stress, secondary infection hard to say.>
as well as the initial cause of it. Any ideas as to what that thing was and how it constricted their bodies like that?
Thank you so much.
~Connie
<Cheers, Neale.>

Pleco 7/15/11
Dear WWM Crew-
I have a 11 year old Pleco that became acutely disoriented last night. He is frequently ramming into the sides and lid of the tank. The only other thing noted is that his eyes are suddenly sunken. He does not seem to be breathing rapidly or have any other signs of distress (other than the disorientation...) The tank is a 75 gallon and also houses a clown loach, an angel, half-dozen tetras, and two small catfish. None of the other fish are showing any of these symptoms. I tested the water quality last night and everything tested fine. The nitrate was at about 30-40 mg/L so I went ahead and did a 25% water change last night. So far, no improvement in his symptoms. Any other suggestions?
<Do check you haven't used a copper- or formalin-based medication in the tank, as these can upset catfish. Also check the substrate is clean and if you're using gravel, the gravel has been regularly stirred and siphoned, because anoxic decay can cause more problems for bottom-dwelling fish than other sorts. Do check the filter is working well and water chemistry is appropriate ("everything fine" means nothing to me) -- for a Common Plec, Pterygoplichthys sp., we're talking about 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 2-25 degrees dH hardness, and a pH of 6-8. With all this said, I'd expect Loaches and Angels to react more quickly to environmental problems than a Plec. At 11 years of age yours is in middle age, but not old, so I don't think old age will be the problem here. But your Plec is an air-breather, so do check you aren't using paints or other chemicals in the room that might introduce toxins that could harm the Plec (it's a good idea to switch off airstones when painting rooms with fish tanks, and to keep windows open for at least 24 hours so that the air in the room stays as fresh as possible). Sunken eyes are a bad sign for newly-imported L-number Suckermouth cats, but most commonly suggest starvation, so do make sure your Plec has been well fed with lots of greens. Your tank is rather small for a Plec and Clown Loach together, and I'd be surprised if they both get enough to eat AND water quality stays good at the same time. The fact you have a rather high nitrate level may well be a clue, especially if your tap water nitrate level is lower than 10 mg/l (check it). Cheers, Neale.>

Pleco hlth. 1/7/10
Hello. I have looked over many and many of your links on Plecos and haven't seen this question at all. So I'm going to ask.
I have a Pleco in my tank, I have had him a couple years now. I noticed a couple weeks ago he was hiding a lot, not really coming out of that place much at all. Finally he did, he had what I thought looked like a cloudy eye.
<Generally caused by poor water quality.>
So I used some Melafix in the tank. I thought it might have been helping some. He was out a lot more an back to cleaning my glass again. Tonight I noticed that same eye looks kinda bloody.. raw? It looks bad. Was wondering what I can do to help him out. I would really hate to lose him.
<Any sharp decor? Territoriality/aggression from the Cichlids, which vary in aggression, depending on type, but are generally an aggressive fish, especially when in small, overstocked tanks?>
I have a 15 gallon tank. He is in with 3 cichlids. My tank is pretty normal.
<Some may call it normal... sounds overstocked to me... from moderately to heavily depending on what kind of Cichlids these are.>
Temp is about 74 or so.
<This is a little cool. Do you use a heater? I'd keep it at 78 with the use of a heater. If you're not using a heater, then this small volume is likely experiencing radical temperature fluctuations from night to day, when the house heating/cooling system comes on, when it goes off, etc.>
Any help would be greatly appreciated. And will you write me back here or should I try to find this on your website for an answer? Thanks for anytime you can offer me on this.
***Jami***
<Hi, Jami. Firstly, if you would have read the information on the same page where you found our e-mail address, you'd have noticed our request for folks to use proper capitalization, punctuation, grammar, etc. when writing us. If you don't, we have to fix it, and it takes time. "I" is capitalized, and the end of a sentence can be adequately signaled by the use of one period. Secondly, please write back with useful data, i.e., your Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate levels, as well as what kind of Pleco you own, and what kind of fish his tank mates are. Melafix is generally useless once you see a problem on the scale that you're seeing here; however, this is likely a problem caused by poor water quality in an overstocked, underfiltered tank. Even if the primary reason for the problem is otherwise, i.e., aggression from tank mates or a scrape by sharp decor; there's a reason this isn't healing on its own, and that reason is likely water quality, and possibly continued aggression from tank mates, or a piece of sharp decor that has not been removed. I'd like to help you get your guy back on the road to recovery, but you just haven't provided much of the information that I can use to help you. Please feel free to write back with that information.
--Melinda>

Pleco swollen gills, env. 6/10/09
Hello,
<Hi there>
Thanks for having such an informative website! My Sailfin Pleco, now about 4 years old, is living alone in a 25 gallon tank with natural substrate and plants.
<Mmm, is this a Glyptopterichthys gibbiceps? Needs much more room... and what goes with it... better, more stable water quality...>
There is also a driftwood in there for him. Recently I noticed a small red sore around his gill area on one side while he was sucking the tank glass. Today (about a week later) the sore has spread on both sides on or around his gills. His temperament is the same as always; he swims around, sucks on the glass and eats fine, but I'm worried about these sores. I've never dealt with Pleco illnesses so I'm not sure how to diagnose this.
<You have... just not acknowledged the root cause... Poor environment>
I clean his water and filter regularly, the water is properly aerated with an air tube, and he eats algae pucks. The tank is rather clean so I'm not sure where he could have contracted the sore from.
<Cleanliness is not sterility... Do you do water quality tests?>
The only thing I can think of is that a month ago my absolutely gorgeous, healthy and very spunky fantail goldfish who shared the tank with him died very mysteriously.
<Mmm... not likely too mysteriously>
Literally. One night he was totally fine, feeding well, and the next morning he was just still behind his plant (his sleeping spot), not belly up, just hovering there, but clearly dead (broke my heart). There were
absolutely no visible signs of any illnesses. But could my Pleco have contracted something from him?
<Just shares the same too small world>
Problem is, I have no idea what killed my goldfish.
Thanks for your help in advance!
<Please read, at least on WWM, re the needs... system and water quality (and stability) wise re these species. The overall most likely "cause" here is environmental. Bob Fenner>

Sick Pleco 4/18/09
Hello,
I have a 6 year old, 14 inch long "basic" Pleco.
<Pterygoplichthys sp.; a challenging fish in many ways because it needs a large tank. If yours isn't well, there's a very good (90%) chance the issue is environmental. Should be hardy in a 55+ gallon tank with a strong canister filter rated at 6+ times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. Anything less than this, and your problems are very likely "fixable" by moving the fish to an appropriate aquarium.>
There are only 4 very small neon tetras in his tank and they do not show any signs of illness. Two days ago, I cleaned his tank and filters.
<How did you clean the filters? Did you replace any media? What's the water quality and water chemistry here?>
He was fine. When I woke up this morning, I thought he was dead. He was laying extremely still on the bottom of the tank, had a white film over both eyes and has white spots starting at the tip of his nose moving down his back to the beginning of his front fins.
<Sounds like an opportunistic bacterial infection, if we're talking about white patches and white films; these are usually environmental. So while there are cures (for example eSHa 2000 or Maracyn) these MUST be done in conjunction with fixing the environment. At minimum, do a pH test and a nitrite test, and then give me the results. It's dollars to doughnuts that something's amiss.>
He appeared not to be breathing and didn't move at all. I had to know if he was alive or not so I prodded him a little and he moved. It was very slow at first. He began to swim around the tank bumping into things.
<Again, common sign of systemic bacterial infection.>
But he was not moving in a way that made me think he was panicking. Through the day, he is swimming around as usual, not bumping into things in the tank, hanging out in his favorite places and sucking on the side of the tank as usual. It appears the white film on his eyes is not so thick. I can see the "round brown" middle of his eye slightly. Any ideas of what I should do or what it is since it just popped up overnight?
<Very likely a water quality, water chemistry, or possibly a toxicity issue (e.g., detergent, paint fumes or bug spray got into the tank). So: [a] test the water; [b] review conditions, and fix them if necessary; and [c] treat
for Finrot using something reliable (as opposed to salt or Melafix).>
Thanks,
Julie
<Cheers, Neale.>

Ancistrus help! 3/25/2009
Hello again..
<Hi,>
A little question about my Bristlenose Ancistrus.. I had two, one with more bristles than the other.
<Likely a male and female.>
About 4 or 5 weeks ago they became a lot less active in the day, co-inciding with the arrival of some adopted fish, which were two upside down catfish, and a red tailed black shark amongst others. My research suggested that maybe they were just getting older, as I have had them 7 or 8 months now.
<Ancistrus are nocturnal fish in the wild, so it's entirely normal for them to be 'shy', especially in a busy tank.>
Anyhow, I found one dead yesterday. No signs of any lesions or anything, water parameters were fine (nitrites 0, ammonia 0, nitrates less than 10) I do a 30% water change every 10 days or so, and have a 180ltr Juwel Rio with the internal filter it comes with.
<Hmm... if the water quality is good, then may just be "one of those things". But I would be alert to possible problems, and keep an eye on both fish behaviour and water chemistry/quality readings.>
Other tank occupants are (BTW - is this overstocked? They are all very small at present..)
<Certainly busy rather than overstocked, though the Red-tail Shark shouldn't be here. The addition of a secondary, external filter will help with water quality as the fish mature, and should be on your Christmas list perhaps. Something like an Eheim 2217 or equivalent will work well, and that's what I have on my Rio 180.>
14 x 5 banded barb Puntius pentazona

Around 14 zebra Danios (they move too fast to count!)
5 adult platies (2 male, 3 female) 2 juvenile platies
3 x Siamese Algae Eaters
1 x Trichogaster Leeri
2 diamond tetras
3 rosy tetras
3 Columbian tetras
<Fin-nippers these, especially when kept in insufficient numbers, as here...>
2 upside down catfish
<Gregarious, would add at least one more...>
1 red tailed black shark (NB - he is under surveillance for signs of aggression, with plans to move him soon. He is no bigger than the Platies and so far has shown no interest in anything other than food, no territorial behaviour)
<Non-aggressive now because he's young. Once sexually mature he will become much more aggressive. The Siamese Algae Eaters will get chased, a lot. This tank is certainly below the size recommended for Red-tail Black Sharks
because of this aggression issue.>
Around 5 weeks ago, when the Ancistrus became less active, I had slowly lowered the tank temp to 25 C from 27C, as I had lost two small platies and wondered if this was due to the tank temp being too high for them. I also lost two small Danios (around 10 weeks old) at the same time. As these were inbred (!) and all other tank inhabitants were fine, water parameters read normal, I had not overly worried.
<Temperature unrelated to the death of the catfish; 25 C is a happy medium for all these species.>
The remaining Ancistrus is very inactive. Should I quarantine him?
<Why?>
It has been suggested he could be guarding eggs (he has taken to the same place all the time, when I am cleaning the tank they he tries very hard to stay around the same log).
<Could certainly be brooding, but they are territorial anyway, and rarely stray far from their resting site during the day.>
There are no external signs of illness, but I have not seem him feeding for at least the last week. I wondered if they have just become a bit more nocturnal, but when I found one dead..
<I'd not worry unduly beyond the comments already made above.>
Same with the upside down catfish. I haven't seen them since I put them in the tank to speak of. I know where they are, each has chosen the underside of a log, and there they stay. How would I know if there is anything wrong
with them if I cannot see them?!
<At best, Synodontis species are nocturnal fish that often move about very little during the day, but because this is a schooling species, this shyness is doubled if they aren't kept in big groups. Keep six of them, and they might be more day active. Certainly try and keep three or more specimens, and you'll likely see them somewhat during the day. I have three
in a Rio 180, and while not massively active by day, they will scoot about when I feed bloodworms, and periodically they chase one another about. Charming, hardy fish.>
Any advice would be appreciated, I was very fond of the Ancistrus, they were such fun to watch.
<Quite. Perhaps buy some more?>
Thanks
Sarah
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Ancistrus help! (selection; also Colisa chuna; toxic fumes) 3/26/09
Thank you Neale - your responses are always helpful and prompt which is just great!
<Happy to help.>
I think the 'shark' will have to find a new home soon, before he chases anyone or harasses them. My local pet shop has some baby Ancistrus bred in the shop (very nice they are too) I will see if he will do me a swap. Will also consider a few more upside down catfish in a couple of weeks.
<Cool. Baby Ancistrus don't always travel well, or more specifically, they can become starved in pet shop tanks, and so lack the energy reserves to handle transportation and being settled into a new home where they may have to compete for food. If their specimens are clambering about on the glass, take a peek at their bellies: they should not be concave. Some of the better pet stores keep bits of cucumber in their tanks for the Ancistrus to nibble on, in which case, so much the better.>
Sadly today I lost a little Gourami (I missed these off my list, they are small golden or honey Gourami, also adopted from someone just before Christmas) yesterday evening it did not feed, this morning before school run it was struggling to swim against the current of the filter - dead when I got back from school. No external signs of any illness at all.
<Colisa chuna is not an easy species to keep, despite its wide availability. Indeed, when I started keeping fish as a teenager back in 1980s, they were considered quite "specialist" fish because of their need for soft, acidic water. So when you saw them, they were usually expensive. Nowadays they are mass produced on farms, including some non-natural colour forms like the one in your image. While they may be less expensive and certainly easier to obtain, I'm not yet convinced they're "easy" fish. I wouldn't really consider them community fish, but rather better kept in either a single-species aquarium or in a tank with very small, non-aggressive fish such as Marbled Hatchetfish or Dwarf Corydoras.>
I tested the water again - it was as it was on Monday after the water change, 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 10 nitrate.
<All sounds fine.>
Now I am a bit paranoid. Last weekend I varnished some wood nearby, but I kept the doors to the room the tank is in shut, and all the windows around the varnished area open. Other than this nothing has changed.
<Ah, in theory, yes, paint and varnish fumes can kill fish. Since Gouramis breathe air directly, they'd be especially at risk; fish that breathe water will only be exposed to the smaller percentage of the toxic chemical that dissolved in water. That said, if you open windows, you certainly can paint rooms and whatnot without expecting all your fish to die. I would recommend leaving the windows open for at least 24 hours after using paint/varnish though. If you were worried, this would be one of those times where adding fresh carbon to the filter would make sense; carbon removes organic chemicals, reducing the risk of harm. As you may know, carbon is used for precisely this function in gas masks for humans as well as in emergency medicine for removing poisons.>
I am keeping a very close eye for signs of unusual behavior now. At present everyone else is feeding well (flake and algae wafer this morning) and all darting about merrily.
<Cool.>
Attached is a pic of my Gourami (pre death!) He had a big bit of dorsal fin missing when I got him (he came from another local person getting rid of fish), which did not seem to affect him at all.
<Fins usually grow back in time, so unless there's Finrot or Fungus, damage to the fins isn't something that I personally worry about when selecting fish. If you look at photos of wild fish from the Amazon, they've all got bloody great chunks of fin missing thanks to the numerous fin-eating characins!>
Thanks
Sarah
(enjoying my new subscription to PFK and spotted your name in it..)
<Glad you're enjoying the magazine.

Re: Ancistrus help! (selection; also Colisa chuna; toxic fumes) 04/07/09
Hi Neale,
<Have been on vacation, forgive tardiness in replying.>
I am so sorry to keep on bothering you - but I am still encountering unexplained deaths in my tank.. :(
<Oh?>
Today I found my other Ancistrus dead. I am so sad - I thought she was OK - she's been coming out in the evenings and whilst not zipping about, was moving around more. I took a really careful look at her - she hasn't been dead long as I have only just found her, and I saw her moving about yesterday evening. I cannot see anything about her at all to indicate cause of death (I am too squeamish to dissect - and no longer have my college kit anyhow!)
<Hmm... dissections and autopsies not much help unless you know what to look for. Mystery deaths usually down to water quality problems, sudden variation in water chemistry, or extrinsic factors such as poisoning.
Simple age may be a factor, if the fish was 5+ years old.>
Yesterday I noticed a Danio in the tank with what appears to be dropsy - I have isolated it in the QT and am treating with eSHa 2000 but I guess it is probably too late. I am baffled though, as nitrates are around 10, 0 ammonia and 0 nitrite. But these deaths indicate poor water quality?
<No.>
I am due a water change (it has been 10 days) and always do 30% - but the tests do not indicate a problem.. I will do more than usual, and repeat it in a few days.
Have you any idea what could be causing this?
<None.>
My tank has been running 6 months now, and I do changes of 30% every 10 days approx. I use tetra aqua safe, mixing it in the bucket with our tap water, adding water from the kettle to heat as I do not have a facility to warm the water anywhere else.
<Boiling the water is redundant. Removing 30% of the tropical water and replacing with cold water from the tap should cause little harm to your fish. So long as the thermometer doesn't dip below 18 C after a water
change, I'd not worry.>
I check temp with a thermometer before it goes in the tank. I make sure that I use the mains tap, as we have a water softener and we never use softened water in the tanks.
<Good.>
All the fish are behaving fine (even the one with dropsy is eating and swimming about well)
<Well, that's a good sign.>
Help! I really do not want to lose any more fish. I haven't put any meds in the main tank as I do not know what is causing the problem...
<Agree.>
(needless to say, I'm not buying new fish at the moment)
<Also sensible.>
Yours worriedly
Sarah
<My gut feeling is let the system "shake itself out". Don't add fish; do moderate water changes of 25% weekly; be careful with things like food and removing organic wastes like dead plants. Generally, adopt a wait-and-see approach. A lot of aquaria "just work" with a certain number/combination of fish; likely has much to do with water chemistry stability, filter, etc.
See what happens for a month. If no other fish get sick, I'd expect the tank to settle down by the end of that period. Cheers, Neale.>

Pleco hlth. strange bubble 12/31/08 My father has asked me to research a problem he has with his Sailfin leopard Pleco. He is about a year old and is about 8+ inches long. My father does not test his water and when I checked it last, the ammonia levels were through the roof , the Neons had mouth fungus and he had a white spot problem which has meant the death of most of the other fish. Having found strange worms in the water he decided to clear out his 120 litre tank which meant a complete scrub out including the gravel. He has 3 uplift tubes and an under ground filter and he does a 50% water change about every 3 weeks. I know this isn't the "ideal" maintenance program but I've given up telling him he needs to watch the water quality. However he comes to me when things go wrong! His big catfish had caramel patches on it after the ammonia poisoning and looked very dehydrated but has recovered well since we cleared out the tank. We put in some Methylene blue when we cleaned the tank and some filter start and saved "gunge". The catfish initially looked very well, put on weight, lost his caramel colour and became a lot more active. Of late he has been jumping out of the water and gasping lots of air and then flushing his gills at the bottom of the tank. Anyway now ( a week later and 2 30% water changes) we see that around his anal vent he has a large bubble (polo mint size)with a small cotton thick strand from the centre of it. He is not showing any other signs of distress but hasn't eaten all week and isn't pooing. He is not bloated or sunken. He usually gets algae wafers and catfish pellets. He has 2 tank companions(only ones left)... a neon and a platy. Prior to the changes the water was acidic (6) nitrate (5)ph (6.4) ammonia (4). Now the levels are good but the blue tint remains from the Methylene blue. Is this chemical not good for catfish? Great site. I've learnt loads! Karen <Hello. Saying this tank isn't "ideal" doesn't begin to cover things! This tank is a death trap, and nothing I can say here will fix things unless your father is prepared to return the fish he can't keep (i.e., the big catfish) and properly maintain the tank so that the rest of the fish have a chance of surviving. The Plec is swimming about because water quality is poor; normally they rest during the day, but when poisoned they surface regularly to gasp air. The various signs of Finrot (damage to the fins) and systemic bacterial infections (around the anus) may be fixed with a suitable antibiotic (e.g., Maracyn) or antibacterial (e.g., eSHa 2000) but without fixing the tank, treating the fish thus would be spitting into the wind: they'll get sick again within weeks. Ditto any fungal infections (anything that looks like white cotton threads) or Mouth Fungus (slimy tufts on the face and body). Your "levels" don't make any sense to me: acidity and pH should be measured with the same test kit, and a pH of 6.4 is low, and dangerously low so far as Platies are concerned. The ammonia level is just plain lethal. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: strange bubble, Pleco dis. ~ 01/01/09
Neale Thanks for your prompt reply. <My pleasure.> We shall get some of the treatment you suggest and work on the water quality. <Cool.> You will be pleased to know that after another water change today the levels are better but still a way to go. A 30% water change and addition of stress zyme and stress coat hopefully with help. <The water change will certainly do a lot of good; the other "potions" certainly do no harm, may even help a little.> Can you tell me if it would be ok to do this every couple of days or is this too drastic? <Just fine; so long as the water going in has roughly the same chemistry and temperature of the water going out, you can change as much as you want!> I am mindful that it is not good to alter conditions too quickly. <Quite so; does depend on whether you're in a hard or a soft water area. Most of Southern England for example is hard water, and water chemistry changes hardly at all between water changes. So if you're in a hard water area, the bigger the better so far as water changes go. In parts of the UK with soft water, like the Scottish Highlands, things are different, and it's best to do multiple small water changes rather than big weekly or two weekly changes.> I think the problem occurred because he doesn't test the water and because he cleared everything out he hasn't been maintaining the bacteria to restore the biological filter. <Sounds a good hypothesis.> He has however reduced the feeding to a fraction of what he was until the catfish starts eating again. <I'd not feed at all while ammonia is not equal to zero; fish can go many days, even weeks, without food.> Have you any advice re improving the biological filter in the short term? <Rinsing out the sponge or ceramic noodles in a bucket of water from the tank is a good way to clean away silt without losing bacteria. The "cleaner" the biological media, the more bacteria it will host. Of course, brand new media contains no bacteria at all, hence the art is keeping mature (6+ week old media) as silt-free as possible.> How often could the stress zyme be added safely? <Weekly should be ample. It isn't a product I use myself, but I have no objections to others using it as they prefer.> I think this problem has encouraged him to take notice of the levels as what arrived as a small sucker fish to keep the glass clean has grown into the ugliest and biggest thing I've ever seen but he is really quite attached to it and is very sad he has caused it distress. <Big catfish can be fun pets; I've had a Panaque nigrolineatus Suckermouth cat for some 15 odd years, and am very attached to her -- despite the fact she destroys any plants or wood I stick in the tank!> Regards Karen <Happy new year! Neale.>

New Pleco has white lines on underside... Need info. 12/28/08 I recently added a Pleco to a 20 gallon tank that already has one cichlid in it after my last Pleco passed away. <What species of Cichlid, Pleco?> He was very light in coloration when we first got him and has darkened a lot in our tank, <Will change with mood... conditions> and his coloration now resembles the one we had before (before he died). I have notice whit lines on the underside of the Pleco and I was wondering if Plecos have plates on the bottom, <Yes they do><<Mistake... Only on the rear area underneath, not the "belly". RMF>> and if it is common for them to have this or if it is a fungal infection. Unfortunately I do not have a quarantine so he's in there with the cichlid now. Do you think it's a fungus? <Mmm, no. Not likely... else it would be dead in short order> If so I can treat with Mardel powder I have on hand. Thanks, Brett <Brett... like the show "House" on TV, we need more information (and your test results) to make accurate "diagnoses"... Need to know the species involved here, your set-up and maintenance history, water quality tests... to help you. Bob Fenner>
Re: New Pleco has white lines on underside 12/28/08
The cichlid is Julidochromis ornatus. The Pleco is Liposarcus anisitsi. <Mmm, gets much too large for this tank: http://fish.mongabay.com/species/Liposarcus_anisitsi.html> The tank is my dad's and does not get cleaned very often, it's a 20 gallon with a bottom filter. The cichlid is about 4 inches long and the Pleco is about 3. pH 6.4-6.8; <Mmm, low for the Juli...> alkalinity b/w 120-180; hardness 250-425; <Good... sufficient buffering> Nitrates are at 40 ; <Yeeikes! Much too high... see WWM re...: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwnitrates.htm...> nitrites are 0.5. Temp is 72 F. Let me know if you need to know anything else. Thanks Brett <For you to read the linked files above. BobF>
Re: New Pleco has white lines on underside 12/28/08
Thanks, those links were very helpful, I'll take care of the nitrates and pH. <Bob didn't mention, but will add, that nitrite levels not equal to zero are dangerous in freshwater tanks generally, and highly dangerous to Tanganyikan cichlids. Suspect this tank is overstocked: a single large Plec-type catfish would overwhelm any but the most heavily filtered 20 gallon system.> I also noticed that there were chunks missing out of the Pleco's left rear fin and was wondering if that might be fin rot. <Could easily be.> Also, do you think I should worry about the white lines around the plates on the Pleco's underside? <Plecs don't have plates on the underside of the body; they bellies are leathery skin. This is distinct from the other armoured catfish family, the Callichthyidae, such as Corydoras, which have plates all around the body forming a robust "box". By contrast Plecs (family Loricariidae) are armoured on the flanks and dorsal surface only. Plecs generally do not suffer from many diseases, but Fungus and Finrot are certainly possibilities and worth being on the alert for. Fungus usually looks like fluffy white stuff, whereas Finrot on the body at least reveals itself as patches of dead white tissue around red inflammation. These two diseases have similar causes and often occur together.> Brett <Cheers, Neale.>

Pleco with red spots   1/11/08 Hello, <Ave,> I have a 4 1/2 year old, 14 inch Pleco, the brown one with a squiggly line pattern and approx. 11 or 12 rays on his sail fin. <That would be one of the traded Pterygoplichthys sp., which attain a length of up to 45 cm/18" in captivity.> I had him in a tank with a pair of zebra Danios only. I decided the tank could handle a few more small fish so I got a couple more Danios and neon tetras about 2 weeks ago. He was very content with the "one pair of Danios". <No such thing as a pair of Danios; they are schooling fish, and the only kind way to keep them is in groups of at least 6 specimens. Anything less is, not to be too fine a point on it, cruel. Likewise with Neon tetras. Do note that both Neons and Danios appreciate cooler than normal temperatures, around 22-24C is ideal for Neons, and as low as 18C good for Danios. This is a bit cooler than your catfish wants, but it should be fine at 23 or 24C.> The tank seemed a little empty. As soon as I put the new fish in, my Pleco "Jaws" became very unhappy. He wasn't calm anymore. He became agitated, swimming from one side of the tank to the other, up and down, whipping his tail around taking out all of the fake plants and trying to push around the decor with his "nose". <Very odd. Do check water quality.> All of this because I added some tiny fish???? It seemed like he doesn't want anything in his space. Can a Pleco be a very solitary fish? <How big is this aquarium? Yes, Pterygoplichthys is territorial, but not normally towards midwater fish. So in the smallest possible tank for these catfish, a 55 gallon tank, the addition of a school of Neons or Danios should make no difference.> Now, he has started going up and gulping air - frequently. <Again: check water quality, i.e., nitrite and pH at the very least.> He used to do it occasionally but it has become quite often and when he comes back down he makes a splash with great force. I have even wondered if he has hit the lid. <These catfish will breathe air when water quality drops or it is too warm for them.> I recently noticed he had some spots on his head behind his eyes that appeared to be fungus after doing some research. They looked like matted hair but the same color as his skin. <Sounds like fungus, yes. Treat with a combination Finrot/fungus medication such as Maracyn or eSHa 2000. Don't waste your time with Melafix/Pimafix. Do remove carbon from the system (if you're using it) while treating. Do not delay! Treat right now!> Today, on his belly, some of the tiny dots in his pattern that are usually cream colored are now red dots. The edges of his fins are red, his rays on his sail fin appear to be red and the tail fin appears to be red on the bottom edge also. I also saw a couple of red circles on his side. <Sounds gloomy.> I checked the water quality and all things checked out normal. <Meaning what precisely? Give me numbers! Zero ammonia and zero nitrite are essential, and nitrate should be less than 50 mg/l, ideally less than 20 mg/l. The hardness should be in the "slightly soft" to "very hard" range, and the pH should be between 6 and 8. Salt is not required.> I have a 55 gallon tank. It has a 80 gal Eheim canister filter, plus I put a 60 gal Topfin filter and two bubble curtains. I think there is good aeration. <The ratings stuck on filters in terms of tank size are meaningless. Rather, assume a big, messy catfish needs filtration of at least 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. So a 55 gallon tank needs filter (or filters) that provide not less than about 300 gallons per hour turnover. You'll see the turnover rating on the pump someplace (either in GPH or LPH).> I keep the temperature between 76-78*. <A bit too warm for Danios and Neons, both of which come from relatively cool environments. Aeration is relatively unimportant in a tank with good water circulation, but certainly does no harm.> What could be causing the spots that look like matted hair, all of the red streaking/spots and is any of this related to the possibility of him just getting to big for the tank? <Finrot/Fungus is the immediate problem, and needs to be dealt with ASAP. Both are almost always caused by either [a] poor water quality or [b] physical damage, such as fighting or rough handling. This type of catfish should be happy enough in a 55 gallon system, though obviously 'the bigger, the better'. Do check the filter you have is properly maintained, and you're doing sufficient water changes.> Thanks, Julie <Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Pleco with red spots   1/11/08
Hello again, <Hello!> Thanks for the quick response. <No problems.> What would be an acceptable temperature for my Pleco, Danios and tetras to live with? <I'd go for 24C, tops.> According to the test strips I am using from PetSmart to test my water quality, the results are: ammonia = 0 <Good.> chlorine = 0 <Good.> nitrite = 0 <Good.> total hardness = 50 which is at the top of the soft end and bottom end of the? moderate scale (done by color coding so it is a guesstimate) <This is mg/l calcium carbonate, I'm assuming. Yes, this is pretty soft, and one problem here could be lack of pH stability. To cut a long story short, all tanks acidify, and tanks with limited carbonate hardness (measured with a carbonate hardness rather than total or general hardness test kits) is that the pH plummets between water changes. There are various ways to deal with this, but all involve raising the carbonate hardness. See here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2oquality.htm > pH = 6.8 (done by color coding so it is a guesstimate) <Acceptable, though would be interesting to compare plain tap water with aquarium water a week after a water change. The absolute value is rather less important than the rate of change.> My test kit doesn't include a nitrate test. <Ah. In that case, pre-empt things by doing 25-50% water changes weekly.> I have 6 Danios and 5 tetras with my Pleco. They have been swimming at the bottom of the tank - could this be due to the water temperature being to warm? I thought they were mid-water swimmers? <Neons actually stay close the bottom; Danios at the top. Does rather depend on how secure/happy they feel.> I have done a recent water change and cleaned the filters. <Good.> I have done some quick research and my combined filters (if you can add them together) are doing about 400 gph. <Should be ample for a 55 gallon tank.> I will get the medicine to take care of the fungus. Any ideas on the red stuff? <It's irritated skin/blood.> My Pleco has been jetting all over the tank, hitting everything in sight, just like he is in a bad mood so maybe the redness is due to him slamming into everything. <very odd, and usually a sign there's something that's making him cranky. If water quality is acceptable, as seems to be the case, then do check other factors. Do you use dechlorinator when doing water changes? If your local water supplier adds Chloramine (call/check web site) you need a dechlorinator that removes that as well. I'd do a big (50%) water change now and another tomorrow. Why? If there's something in the water, like a poison, this will dilute it. Possible poisons include things like paint fumes. It's surprisingly easy to poison fish.> He has 2 small holes in his sail fin where he has tried to squeeze into between some fake plants. I have seen that before and it heals up. <Should do again, all else being equal.> Your advice is greatly appreciated. Julie <Happy to help, Neale.>

Oto Quarantine Question (RMF please comment/correct)   12/29/07 Hi Crew! Happy Holidays to you! <Thanks!> I have some Otocinclus and Corys in quarantine. I got them the day before yesterday and all have been acclimated into the quarantine tank and seem to be doing fine. I have some driftwood in the quarantine tank with them. <Good. Also remember they need MASSES of oxygen, and will often suffocate under less than perfect aquarium conditions. These are fish of very shallow, fast-moving streams.> I have lightly fed frozen bloodworms (the Corys ate them, I didn't see the Otos eat these) and Ocean Nutrition Formula One flakes (I saw one of the Otos nibble on these). Today I am going to blanch some zucchini for the Otos. <Hmm... Otocinclus are really pretty much green aufwuchs/algae eaters in the wild, taking in the algae and the tiny animals hidden among it. In captivity they can be tricky to feed without healthy growths of green algae. Do try prepared alternatives such as crushed tinned peas, Sushi Nori, algae wafers, etc. But the best is nice lumps of green algae grabbed out of a clean pond. The lifespan of Otocinclus in tanks with no/little green algae is very poor. Brown algae, blue-green algae, red algae (hair algae), etc. are not substitutes! It has to be GREEN algae, the fuzzy leaf-green stuff that grows in clean, brightly illuminated tanks.> I've been reading WetWebMedia (love your site!) and saw that Otos can be a host to a number of parasites. While in quarantine, should I give them medicated food for parasites and or Treat with Fluke-Tabs for parasitic worms? If so, what type of food? I'm not really sure if the Otos will eat it. <Your main problem is diet: in my opinion the majority of Otocinclus starve to death, and if parasites are an issue, it's mostly after they've been starved into a state of weakness. So your quarantining is as much about fattening them up as fixing any parasites. In any case, getting these fish to eat medicated food will be tricky, so the simpler option will be to add something to the water, such as Fluke Tabs. That said, Otocinclus are peculiarly sensitive to chemicals in the water, and I'd tend to treat them only if there were signs of ill-health, or at least no signs they were fattening up. RMF may disagree/have alternative thoughts.><<I do not. Commercial importers might do this... to benefit, but most imported members of the genus are so "beat", starved, that it's best to not quarantine them at all... but introduce directly to the main/display and get feeding ASAP. RMF>> If I should treat the Otos, should I do while the Corys are in the tank, or after they have been moved into the main tank? <I'd do them together, if required.> Thanks for your answer, and for this wonderful site! Happy New Year. Michelle <Cheers, Neale.>

Pleco with weird spots -- 10/30/2007 Hello, <Hello.> I have, what I assume, is a common Pleco (Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus). He looks like the picture that appears with this name. <Also check Pterygoplichthys pardalis; the two species are sold interchangeably as "Common Pleco" and are easily confused. There are other Pterygoplichthys that might be traded too. All very similar.> He is approximately 4 years old and 13 inches long. <Ah, still a young 'un! Maximum size of Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus is 50 cm. These are BIG fish.> I got him when he was less than 2 inches long and started in a 10 gallon tank to a 20 gallon tank and now in a 55 gallon tank. <Yes, they grow fast!> The tank has good filtration, 2 bubble curtains for aeration and is sparsely decorated so he has room to move around with ease but he can hide. Although, he likes to be out in the open and comes up to the front of the tank to see me. His only tank mates are a pair of zebra Danios. <Sounds fine. But you might want to add some more Danios.> I feed him: algae tabs, veggie tabs, cucumbers, occasionally water melon, he cleans up any left over fish flakes and he keeps the tank algae free.? <All good. But do also try carrot, sweet potato, Sushi Nori and courgette. Cucumber is 99% water, so not really good for anything much, though I agree that all Plecs seem to love it. Do also add some bogwood, which Plecs seem to use as a source of fibre. The odd prawn or mussel will also be welcomed, maybe once a week. Pterygoplichthys is an omnivore rather than a strict herbivore.> I was having a hard time keeping the tank water clean and water conditions stable. <No surprise. Welcome to the Big Catfish = Dirty Tank club. I was thinking of having some jackets made up.> He was producing a lot of waste. <You're effectively keeping a cow in an aquarium. So expect masses of faeces. On the plus side, there's hardly any ammonia in them, so the ammonia and nitrite will stay low. It's more a cosmetic problem, though obviously a clogged-up filter is a Bad Thing.> My filters were constantly dirty regardless of how often I rinsed them out or put a clean one in. <Normal. That's why you need something around 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover, and ideally 10 times. In other words, in a 55 gallon tank, you need filters with ~ 300 to 500 gallons per hour turnover.> It was suggested to me, to add "Waste Control Organic Waste Eliminator" by Nutrafin and "Nutrafin Cycle Biological Filter Supplement" to help break down my Plecos waste and any left over food. This has solved my water condition problems. <Can't think why. Neither product sounds magical, especially the latter, which is basically unnecessary in a healthy aquarium. The solid waste produced by your catfish is mostly cellulose. It will break down over time, but it is messy. Because it contains minimal nitrogen, its effect on water quality is virtually zero. Here's my strategy: arrange your gravel so one of the corners is shallower than in the rest of the tank. The filter current should push the faeces into this "crater" over time. Each day, you can siphon out the unsightly waste.> I noticed he had a round brownish looking spot on the side of his head towards the top. I actually thought he had gotten a burn from the heater. He likes to get close and suck on the heater at times. Today, I noticed he has several spots that are roundish in shape, brownish in color and have a light white fuzz like coating on top of the spots. I had to use a magnifying glass to see the white fuzz. I do not recall these spots before I added the "Waste Control Organic Waste Eliminator" by Nutrafin and "Nutrafin Cycle Biological Filter Supplement". <Hmm... the fuzz is fungus and needs to be treated immediately. The heater MUST have a "heater guard" around it. These are plastic tube-shaped grills. Some heaters come with them anyway. If yours doesn't, go buy a heater guard. Put it over the heater. That will prevent heater burns. What you are describing is quite common, and easily prevented.> His overall color is good, he is eating and moving around the tank as normal. Do you have a suggestion of what these spots are and what I should do? <The fungus is eating up dead skin caused by heater burns.> Thanks, Julie <Good luck, Neale>

Pleco problems   5/20/07 Dear Crew, <Hello!> It is so good to be able to write to experts. <Sorry, the experts are all out right now, so you'll have to talk to me instead.> I have a Pleco, named Plotya, whom I love very much. <Very good.> He started having a hard time navigating. Something makes him float up to the surface and he turns belly up and gulps. <Sounds like water quality issues. When Plecs are in polluted water, they breathe air. It helps them survive in ponds during the summer.> For three weeks he had one red-tinted side fin and a couple of red spots that looked like tiny wounds on his belly. The spots stayed throughout these weeks but the redness on the fin came and went. Now he looks entirely normal and it seems that everything has cleared on its own. <Which is good.> I changed his diet when I saw the red spots. I added shrimp pellets to his usual half wafer of algae to make him stronger. Last night I was not at home to feed him but I gave him more shrimp pellets before I left in the morning and then I fed him more pellets this afternoon. <All good, but take care not to overfeed. These catfish need mostly vegetables in their diet. 90% vegetables, 10% protein. I'd give him zucchini (courgette), cucumber, broccoli, carrot, potato, cooked cabbage leaves, dandelion leaves, etc. Use meaty foods only sparingly. Plecos are the "sheep" of the catfish world, and feed mostly on algae and plants.> And then he suddenly starts floating on the surface! I have made a 50% water change and he seems to be able to  hang onto the wall vertically, head up. Maybe this is my answer? <Indeed. Clean water makes him healthy...> He lives in a 10 gallon tank with 1 angel fish and 9 mollies. Is our tank overstocked and it makes him sick?    <Probably not sick, but suffering. Yes, 10 gallon tank is much too small. Must be at least 30-40 gallons for an adult Plec. Preferably more. If you have no space for a bigger tank, maybe you can find a friend with a bigger aquarium he can live in?> Thanks a lot! Anastasia <Good luck! Neale>
Re: Pleco problems
   5/20/07 Dear Neale and Crew, thank you so much for your prompt response! <Hello Anastasia!> When I wrote the letter yesterday, Plotya was vertical but later he surfaced again belly up and had a hard time keeping his mouth in the water. This morning he managed to tack himself behind the plant at the surface to keep his head under the water. <So, he's not quite at death's door yet.> Part time he is attached to the wall by his mouth but it is obvious that his belly keeps him afloat. <Sounds very odd. Catfish breathe by putting air inside the intestine, and it is possible this is making him float. But I think the main problem is water quality in the aquarium. Your 10 gallon tank is too small for a Plec.> And so his head is at the wall and the body is twisted and upside down off of the wall, floating. And Part time he is just afloat sideways with his head under the water. He does not move at all but I can see he is breathing.   <Not good.> Unfortunately I cannot tell if he is bloated or not. He's always been plump. I gave him a fresh peeled pea from the garden but it seems that there is no way he can make it to the bottom to get it. <Keep trying different vegetables. Root vegetables (potato, carrot, etc.) are usually very good for Plecs, but sometimes they need to soften in the water for 24 hours before the catfish can eat them.> Does he have a swim bladder infection? <Probably not. These are quite rare. Usually when fish cannot swim normally, it is a neurological condition (brought on by, e.g., the wrong water conditions) or a dietary problem (constipation). Adding *non-iodised* cooking salt (NaCl) at a dosage of UP TO 1 gramme per litre is recommended as one possible therapy in one of my fish health books. Certainly worth a shot. Add salt in small doses, a maybe replacing 25% of the water per day with water with some salt. Adding too much, too quickly is sure to shock the fish.> Thank  you so much again! It is Sunday and I am desperate as to where to get advice and how to treat him! Anastasia <Good luck, Neale>

Plec with Cloudy Eyes Hello. I was wondering if someone could help me? First of all let me give you a little bit of info. We have a 55 gallon tank with a medium-sized Oscar and a Pleco. Up until a couple of days ago there was also several goldfish that had grown quite large (we bought them as feeder goldfish when we bought Oscar, but he was too small and they just kept growing. There were 10 of them and last week 3 died. The others we moved to an outside little pond that we bought. Yesterday the Pleco's eyes were looking totally white. What can do this to him? Is there anything that can help him? We had had some problems with the water being cloudy recently, but added some new water and some drops of a store bought product to reduce cloudiness. I was just curious, as he is a really cool fellow, and I really want to help him. Thank you for any input/help you can offer. Have a great day! Barbara <Most eye problems start with water quality. Do a few large daily water changes, 50% at a time. Use a gravel vac to get the bottom clean. Please, no chemicals except dechlorinator. If the eyes start to bulge add a tablespoon of Epsom salt for each 5 gallons of water. If they do not clear in a week or so then we may need to medicate. Best done in a small QT tank as most meds will also kill the good bacteria in your system. You may want to ensure to have something ready to hold him just in case. Furan 2 would be my choice if a med is needed. But I would try pristine water conditions first. Plecs don't take meds well. Use half dose for twice as long. Don>

Sailfin Plec Dear Sirs I have 2 problems that hope you will be able to help me with. <Will try> 1st is my Sailfin Plec seems to be losing the soft part of the lower half of the rear fin and its turning black, almost like a small fish has nibbled away at the fin itself, and the same for the lower rear fins apart from the colour change. This started happening around Christmas, but I thought it was getting better. The Plec has no character change and seems happy to do the usual swimming inverted and sucking food of the surface and general tank ornamental re arrangement at his leisure.  This might be tied together ! 2nd is that I had to put a 3 spot blue Gourami in my tank from my parents as the guppies were pecking at it constantly, which is weird as there is a pair and one is not bothered and the other seems happy to be eaten.  At first in my tank it was fine and then it was back to the attack of the killer guppies, and now the Gourami is, for want of a better expression, bent, just like a ~ shape. this fish doesn't defend itself, it just endures hours of swimming backwards forwards and is only left alone at feeding time. <Yikes> I've managed to keep neon's for once and no dead guppies so the water is usually fine, no other fish are affected. The only other thing is that I put a lovely deep red very long finned Betta fighter in the tank and a couple of days later the fins do not look as nice as before with slight darkening at the end and a few gaps in the previously unmarked fin, but as before, no change of character.  Do you think all this has been the result of the Gourami, and its some sort of fin rot ? <Not due to the fishes themselves... but something IS awry with your tank... the chemistry is off for some reason/s...> Any help would be fantastic.  Many thanks in advance. Best regards Alex Price <Thank you for your good notes here... As stated, there is something amiss with your water quality... NOT a biological disease per se... Do you have rocks from outside, a seashell... other decor that you can describe? The color on the Pleco may be natural, nothing to worry about, but the bent spine on the Gourami? Perhaps genetic, nutritional in origin... I would utilize a chemical filtrant, like carbon or PolyFilter here... remove the possible source of contamination (if we can find it). Bob Fenner>

Three Pleco Deaths I have a 26Gal community tank. Over the years I've only had a few Plecos. My common Pleco, which I had for 2 years and was 6-8" long, just died. He used to have a great appetite, but I hadn't seen him eat in at least a month. I gave him things like zucchini and Spirulina discs, which he loved. Over the last couple of months I had added 2 other Plecos at different times. A chocolate Pleco and an albino -- both were very young and small. The first lasted a few weeks, the albino lasted about a month. I hardly, if ever, saw either of them eat, despite the availability of food. I do have some Corys and my other fish graze food at the bottom of the tank, but they posed little competition for the Plecos who had ample opportunity to eat. My tank is also abundantly planted. The chemistry is fine. I always fed them after the light went out, which is on a timer. The water is very clear except recently I noticed what looks like suds that accumulate around the surface edges of the water. Water changes don't get rid of them for very long. The suds appeared long after the Plecos stopped eating. I've never used any cleaners or soaps on the tank. The rest of the fish are fine. Any ideas as to why they weren't eating and where those suds are coming from. Sara <Hi Sara, Don here. Sounds like you are feeding them correctly, so my second thought is water conditions. You say it's fine, but what are you testing for and what are the readings? Three is a lot of Pleco for a 26 gallon tank. It may be high nitrates. I also see more bubbles on the surface when my nitrates start to climb. Try to keep them below 20ppm. If confirmed you need to increase your water change schedule. Also check ammonia and nitrite. Both must be at zero. Plecos use a lot of O2 and nitrites effect the gills. If ammonia or nitrite are present, do water changes to correct and add more bio filtration or reduce the number of fish.>    

Plecos Poor Survival in Tank  9/16/-6 Hi there, <Hi Cali, Pufferpunk here> I have a 20 gallon hexagon freshwater aquarium.  I've had it for about a year and a half now.  I have 2 red rainbow fish, 2 strawberry tetras, 2 silver/white mollies, 1 black molly, a frog, <Dwarf frog, I hope!> 1 powder blue dwarf Gourami and an upside down catfish.   <The Synodontis (upside down cat) can grow quite large & so do the rainbows--way too large for your tank, especially with the lesser swimming room in a hex.  The rainbows need a very long tank to swim across.> I have fake silk plants and some tank decorations.  I have tried several species of Pleco fish over the last year and none of them survive.  I have algae and when there is no algae I supplement with algae tablets.  The longest surviving Pleco was a butterfly variety and that lasted about 2 weeks.  Considering they are supposed to be hearty fish, I'm not sure why they keep dying.  Any suggestions? <You want to start by testing your water parameters for ammonia, nitrites (should be 0 at all times), nitrates (should be under 20) & pH (most Plecos prefer low pH but can handle neutral, 7.2).  If all that is good, then the next Pleco you buy (must be a dwarf species for such a small tank), be sure it has a nice convex tummy--not caved in.  Most Plecos are wild-caught & need to be treated for internal parasites after purchase or they will quickly waste away.  You might have better luck with the dwarf Bristlenose Pleco, as many are tank-raised.  ~PP> <<Likely the species involved need much more room as well. RMF>> Thanks, Cali Day

Sick Pleco  - 01/24/06 Our office has a 50 gallon aquarium up front with two Oscars and a large Pleco. <Need more space...> It's probably about 10 or 11 years old, and about a foot long.  He was acting normally last week, but we came in this morning, and he's laying upside down at the bottom of the tank. <Not good>   He's still breathing, and occasionally we see him move, but nothing more than an inch or so from a small wave of the tail.  He looked in good shape last week, but we noticed he's got a small white spot on the tip of his nose, like he scraped it on something. <Likely so... generally not a problem> We've seen him do that before and it's gone away pretty quick, so I don't think that's a cause here, I just wanted to give all the details.  We tested the water, and everything seems to be in the normal range.  Any ideas what we can check next?  Or is this maybe just the end of the road for an older fish?  (How long does a Pleco usually live?) <In this setting... a decade is a good long time. In a bigger tank, perhaps twice this long. I would change about a quarter of the water (every week) and leave all else be. Bob Fenner> Any help would be great. Thanks, Mike Williams

Water Quality, Plecos, and Praise - Oh My! Sabrina, <Hi again, Chris!> many thanks for the prompt and helpful reply. <Oh, goodness....  I hope you can forgive the delay on this one!  Computers crashing all around me....  I think I have bad computer vibes emanating from my fingertips, or somethin'!> As you suspected water quality was (is still not) ideal. Nitrites and nitrates are high and I'm getting them down with water changes <Ah, good.> although I'm equally cautious about doing too much too quickly. <Not much to be cautious of, here; just be sure to match temperature and pH to that of the tank.> We've added some bogwood and improved the hiding place. <Also good.> We've also left the light off for the last few days, room light is quite good. <That will definitely help soothe this primarily nocturnal critter as he settles in.> The tank bottom is all sand so he (or she - I wish I could tell) <Sex can be determined in adults during breeding time (or if you simulate conditions of their breeding season) - males of most Loricariids will develop "odontodes", these are fine bristles that will show up on their pectoral fins and on their 'face'/'cheeks', especially on the operculum.  Females will lack these odontodes.  Other than that, it can be extremely difficult to tell gender.> should have a soft place to lay up. I've also noticed its adhering to the glass more so I suspect there's some algal growth forming up. <It could also be that the sand is too sharp for him (er, her? it?).  Please watch for any redness/irritation on the plec's belly.> In general the Plec is looking calmer but I'm not complacent. Its just getting the balance right of trying to do the right thing and not causing too much stress. <You nailed it on the head right there, mi amigo!> It's my son's tank and the fish, especially the Plec, are real pets if you know what I mean. <I do know, indeed.> If I could ask you a couple more questions please: 1. How do you sex a Plec? <Yikes!  I jumped the gun.  See above.> 2. We live in a very hard water area - I have access to deionized water - should I mix this in with the tank during water changes? <That is certainly an option.  Though, you could try using peat in your filter instead; this certainly does the trick for my tanks, and I recommend it highly.> 3. Does having hard water change the water parameters I should aim for? <No.  Ammonia and nitrite should be zero, and nitrate ideally below 20ppm, and as close to zero as possible - regardless of pH and alkalinity.> 4. The filter is within the tank and has a compartment for charcoal - do you have a point of view on using it as I've received mixed opinions? <It most certainly has its uses!  It can remove toxins that find their way into your water - which is quite important - among other things.  If you choose not to use it constantly, consider at least running carbon in the filter for a few days each month.> Lastly, I have to congratulate you on the web site - truly one of the best web sites I have been to (not just fish but all web sites). Highly informative, realistic in expectations and advice and welcoming to all levels. Well done indeed. <From all the crew, thank you very much for your kind words!  Erm....  I really hope the delay in response on this one doesn't change your view!> Thanks again for your help.  Chris <You're quite welcome, and thank you again for your praise.  Wishing you and your Plec well,  -Sabrina>

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