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

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

Rocks falling, heaters burning, tankmates biting, pinching.... Hordes of locusts!


Catfish with fin damage      11/7/15
I apologise if my grammar are bad, English is not my first language.
<No worries. I understand you>
I have a catfish with a damaged fin and a pink/red spot on the side of the back, the fin is also of that color.
<I see this in your pix>
it has had this for 2 weeks now and i am worried it might be sick or if it just is a scratch?
<Looks to be both... a physical injury, and a bacterial "fungal" wound site>
I have 2 catfish and the other one is all fine. All water levels is good and he is acting as if there is nothing wrong.
<Mmm; At this point I'd not treat the system.... some very old time remedies might encourage daubing a mercury compound on the site (Merthiolate likely); and some later ones might suggest 250 mg. per ten gallons of a Sulfa Drug.... A most recent method might include using a gram positive and negative antibiotic... E.g. Maracyn I and II.... Again; if it were me/mine, I'd just keep water quality optimized and hope for a self cure here. Bob Fenner>

Catfish with fin damage Neale's take      11/8/15
I apologise if my grammar are bad, English is not my first language.
<Better than my Dansk!>
I have a catfish with a damaged fin and a pink/red spot on the side of the back, the fin is also of that color. it has had this for 2 weeks now and i am worried it might be sick or if it just is a scratch?
<Bit more than a scratch. Looks like he's damaged himself. Or been damaged.
Would treat for Finrot if it gets worse, but otherwise leave alone and it should get better on its own.>
I have 2 catfish and the other one is all fine. All water levels is good and he is acting as if there is nothing wrong.
<Hope this helps. Neale.>

Long-Fin Albino Ancistrus with a fin injury     7/31/15
Hello WetWebMedia,
Thanks to your wonderful knowledge I have been a fishkeeper for many years now. My favorite fish, a full-grown long-finned Albino male Ancistrus, suffered an injury this morning and I'm trying to determine which course of action to take. About a half-inch tip of one of his side fin rays seems to have been completely severed, but is still hanging on thanks to the clear fin tissue. Is it better to net him and clip this off?
<Nope. Will detach itself. Keep a close eye out for Finrot though. Normally damaged fins grow back without problems. Occasionally you'll see the membrane go a bit cloudy around the wound. But if you see small red specks on the fin membrane and a distinctive raggedy edge to the fin, then Finrot may be happening. In itself a little bit of bleeding might not be abnormal.
But when the blood vessels become congested with bacteria and dead cells they create reddish (often pink or even white) swellings. The lack of blood flow means fin membrane beyond the congestion dies, and the fin gradually erodes. This is Finrot.>
The severed end is a little less red right now, but earlier it was quite red and other fish (discus) kept coming near probably thinking it was a worm. He's smart so he swam away and doesn't seem to be in distress. I know Ancistrus with their claws can have trouble being netted, so I hesitate to do that. Will it resolve itself if left in perfect water conditions?
<Yes. Absolutely. In the wild fin damage is very common, through fighting, accidents, narrow escapes from predators, even bites from dedicated fin-eaters. All fish have the ability to regrow damaged fins provided the very base isn't damaged.>
Or is it better to net him and clip it off, then put him in a separate tank?
<Almost never a good idea.>
The back story is, a few days ago I added four 2-year-old Discus and two less than half-grown brown male regular Ancistrus to my long established 90-gallon tank. The big tank held 5 adult discus (parents of the additions) my long-finned albino & a Siamese algae eater. All seem to be getting along beautifully, but one of the little brown male Ancistrus is
kind of aggressive, always has been... Could that little bugger have bitten this damaged fin on a fish over twice his size?
<It's possible because they do have quite strong teeth. But it's more likely damage from some type of misadventure. Do bear in mind "long-finned" varieties of fish have been bred to have longer fins than they evolved to have. Consequently the things that maintain and protect those fins aren't there. The bones may not bone strong enough, and the behaviours needed to
avoid damage to extra-long fins aren't there either. Kind of like women who grow long fingernails. Might look good, but not natural, and hard to keep that length if you're doing manual labour!>
Or could it be that because I added all the tank decor from both tanks (to change the surroundings) he somehow hurt himself. Thanks in advance for your thoughts!
<Cheers, Neale.>
Albino Ancistrus solved his own problem!     7/31/15

Hi again WetWebMedia experts,
Just wanted to report that my favorite fish, my male Longfinned Albino Ancistrus, solved his own problem of the severed fin ray. It tore off once the transparent fin gave way, and he seems just fine. I'm so glad, I wasn't looking forward to chasing him around with a net!
<Cool. Should heal and grow back just fine, assuming good water quality.>
So thanks again for all your expertise, you have taught me so much. You are an unbelievable resource!!
Thanks for all you do,
<And thanks for the kind words. Neale.>

Plec injury    1/6/12
Hi there,
I have a Plec about 4-5 inches long in a 50l (UK) tank - we plan in getting him a bigger tank soon, he was about 1.5 inches when we got him!
<Do you really mean 50 litres? Not 500 or 250 or something? For sure 50 litres is way too small, and the small volume of water makes a bad situation worse.>
He is currently with 5 neons. During a water change two days ago we think he got injured.
<Apparently so.>
He hid in his cave as usual, but when I came back in the evening he had upturned his cave and his belly/fins looked sore. His belly had a whitish patch by his fins, and his dorsal fin seems to have a cut where it joins his back. I added stress coat to the water the next day to try to help him heal (assuming it was an injury and not bacterial).
<Stress Coat is largely a preventative, and should not be relied upon as a treatment.>
I have also now removed the cave and put a larger hiding place for him to live in. This evening though, his injuries seem worse.
<Small tank means the water quality is almost certainly inadequate, and this environmental stress means his immune system is weakened. Plecs can and do recover from this sort of injury without problems, but only in good conditions.>
He doesn't seem to be suffering in character (still active in the evenings)
but attached is a picture of the wound today, looking quite bloody with some kind of lesion by the fin.
Are injuries of this sort supposed to look worse before they look better when healing, or do you think this looks like some kind of fin rot?
<Certainly treat with an anti-Finrot medication. Finrot isn't a single bacterial disease any more than gangrene or septicaemia are in humans.
Finrot simply means ordinary bacteria that live in the aquarium have got into a wound, taken advantages of the weak immune system of the host fish, and started to multiply. As they do so, they cause blood vessels to become congested, and that leads to redness and eventually further damage to the surrounding tissues.>
My 5 neons are unaffected, although we are currently getting over a small snail infestation (I don't think this would affect the Pleco though?)
<Indeed not, assuming you didn't use an anti-snail "potion" as these are fairly toxic and not much recommended by modern fishkeepers.>
Many thanks for your time and thoughts,
<Move to a bigger tank (250 litres minimum for a Plec) and medicate as per Finrot; I'd recommend eSHa 2000 as inexpensive, reliable, and seemingly Plec-safe. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Plec injury    1/6/12
Thank you so much! Bigger tank is imminent, and I'll go out for the fin rot treatment today.
As for the snails, we haven't used treatment, just a good old fashioned pair of fingers to pluck them out, and a cabbage leaf for the rest of them!
<Sounds safe enough!>
Thanks again,
<Most welcome, Neale.>

Re: Plec injury    1/11/13
Hello, just a quick note to say thanks very much for your advice! We found the treatment you suggested and after a 3 day dosage Pleco is looking much better :)
<Great to hear some good news! Hope things work out well, Neale.>

White 'sore' on left side of the mouth of my BN Pleco    3/15/12
<Hi there>
I purchased a BN Pleco yesterday and I put him in a quarantine tank.  I noticed when I got home from my LFS that he seemed to have a white spot on the left side of his mouth.
<Mmm, yes; I see this... where a/the usual "bristle/barbel" of these fish's would be. Evidently damaged, worn off... too likely in transit, rubbing against others in the bag>
  This morning, it looks like the 'sore' became open.  As I am relatively new in the hobby (about 1 year), I do not know a whole lot about diseases.  I did do an extensive search on the internet, but to no avail.  Can you identify what is wrong with the Pleco from the attached picture and maybe suggest a cure?
Thank you very much,
<Just good care should see this fish recover... water quality, nutrition... No medicine advised, needed. Bob Fenner>

Re: White 'sore' on left side of the mouth of my BN Pleco    3/16/12
Thank you so much, I am very relieved to know that he'll make a full recovery with time.
<Ah yes. This genus of Loricariids is very tough. Cheers, BobF>

Pleco... damaged? 2/5/09 Hi I couldn't find an answer to my question on your website or through Google. If I missed it I apologise. I have a 15" Pleco that seems to be in good health except that it appears to have one scale missing from it's side, showing what looks like the bone (white skin ?) underneath. There are no marks, sores, scrapes, red or cloudy areas, it just looks like one small scale has been removed. I have put a fin-rot medication in the tank as about 8 months ago it lost about 1 inch of one fin spike to what I presumed was fin rot - this never grew back but it stopped rotting and has been good since, but the medication seems to have had no reaction either way, good or bad. Could this just be where the Pleco has rubbed against something in the tank or should I be more suspicious ? Thank you for being there and apologies for the long winded question Regards Chris <Hello Chris. Catfish don't have scales, and what look like armoured plates on Plecs are in fact thick pieces of skin. They do get damaged sometimes, most commonly either through heater burns or through Plec-to-Plec violence. Heaters can be very dangerous with catfish generally, because if a catfish nestles under a heater that is cool at the time, and the heater switches on, the catfish might not realise until it's been burned. (Presumably, their plates of skin aren't sensitive to heat, so they can't tell they're being burned until the heat has travelled deeper into the body.) Aggression between Plecs is common and yet often ignored by retailers and hobbyists. If adult Plecs are kept in the same tank, e.g., at a pet store, it is not uncommon for the dominant Plec to scrape the skin away from the weaker ones. Some Plec species are worse than others, with Acanthicus, Panaque, and Pterygoplichthys spp. particularly nasty towards rivals. In extreme cases, deaths can result. Now, Finrot or some similar bacterial infection is a possibility, so treating against them is wise. Do also check water quality: Plecs are big, messy fish that put a lot of stress on their environment. It's hard to keep an adult the size of yours in a tank less than 250 litres (55 Imperial gallons), even allowing for a robust filtration system and copious water changes. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Pleco, injury, heater? 2/5/09
Thank you so much for the comprehensive answer. I am going to keep an eye on the Pleco for any repeat sores. There is only one Pleco in the tank, (tank is 48" x 24" x 18") so it may be water (which is changed (20%-25% weekly) and well filtered, or the heater. Thank you again for your excellent help. Regards Chris <Happy to help. Do look for a heater guard (a simple plastic mesh that encases the heater) or else use an external heater like the Hydro ETH units or the Eheim Thermo--filters. Tank is a bit small, so be aggressive water changes, and check the nitrite level periodically. Cheers, Neale.>

Treating Pleco Wounds -- 07/24/07 Hello One or All, <Hello.> I guess tank issues first right? 100 gallon tank. Everything is testing fine, and everything has been going just fine until last week. The tank's inhabitants are: 5 Rasboras, 1 Danio (who thinks he's a Rasbora), 4 Neon Tetras, 20 Corys (long story) and 1 Pleco. Nothing fancy about him, he's just your everyday kind, but I think he's exceptional. We've had him for 6 years and he's survived a lot of stuff: moves, poisoned tank, living in a 30 gallon tank for too long. He's grown from 2 inches to 15 inches, and has always been healthy. <OK.> Last week I noticed he wasn't eating his zucchini, and this guy is addicted to the stuff. The Corys were acting weird too. I also noticed some little white areas on some of the Corys. All other fish were fine. Then I noticed some small patches of white on Pleco too. <Fungus or Finrot. Treat quickly.> Long story short. Husband treated the tank for something. Used Maracyn and Melafix. Took out the charcoal. <Melafix largely useless, but OK.> The Corys got better, but Pleco was on death's door yesterday. <Oh dear.> He had a large white patch around his mouth, and his tail looked bloody. For a couple of days I noticed that I could see blue streaks in his tail and fins, but now these were all bloody or the fins were dissolved looking. <Bacterial infection moved from fins to body, and now very serious indeed.> He was breathing rapidly and unable to hang on to the tank sides. I yelled at hubby that I didn't care what the meds were supposed to do they were killing Pleco. <Some catfish do indeed react badly to common medications. That said, I'm not familiar with Plecs being among them.> So we did a 50% water change and washed all the fake plants and stuff in the tank. When the water was really low, he went to the corner where the water was pouring in from the filter. It actually seemed to revive him somewhat. Enough that I said hold off on the clove oil. <OK. Now, when you see a fish pep up after a big water change, that's often a sign that the problem is more complex than just disease, and that the disease may even be a symptom of a water quality/chemistry issue. Always worth following up this line of thinking. Test the pH, hardness, and nitrites. Double check for any potential toxins or sources of anaerobic decay. Make sure the fish isn't burning itself on the heater. That sort of thing.> This morning he's in another corner, breathing slower, but the white around his mouth has turned bloody. All other fish are fine. Is there anything I can do to save him? Treatment for the wounds? <Plecs are pretty tough, and I've seen them come back from worse. But it all depends. Treating the bacterial infection is clearly critical. I'd be wheeling out the antibacterial or antibiotic medications. perhaps not Maracyn given your bad luck here. But certainly something like a Furan or Sulfa drug. Seawater dips can also be excellent for cleaning up wounds.> If I can reduce this down better - started out with white patches on his mouth, and blue streaks in his fins. Now the fins are ragged, and the area around his mouth is bloody. Also some other bloody patches. <It sounds like Finrot to septicemia. Since Finrot usually follows from something else like water quality issues, double check the aquarium conditions.> Help if you can before I have to use the clove oil. I really care about this guy. Tara <Well, it sounds 50/50 right now, but I think you have time. Switch treatments, optimise water quality, increase aeration, and hope for the best. Good luck. Neale>
Re: Treating Pleco Wounds  7/26/07
Thanks so much for your response. I know there's a way to make a donation for the help, but not sure what it is. Let me know. <Hello Tara. Yep, there's a "tip jar" on the front page of the site. If you scroll down, you'll see an Amazon logo at bottom left.> Update: we were ready to euthanize Cos last night when he perked up, went upright, and is sucking on the glass. He has some bad wounds though that are growing a little fuzz on them. I know this can't be good. Is there anything we can put directly on the wounded areas to help him out? We retested the water and everything is good. All the other fish are fine now. Really hate to lose this guy if there's something I can do to help him. I put a piece of zucchini in just in case. He's still staying where the water flow is strongest....with his injured parts right above the bubble stones. Thanks again. Tara <OK, the white stuff is fungus or Finrot bacteria. You have to treat, right now! I'd also recommend that AS WELL as adding anti-fungus/Finrot to the tank (to kill the infectious organisms) I'd recommend doing some saltwater dips to clean the wounds. These are simple. Put a few litres of aquarium water into a bucket. Add 35 grammes of non-iodised salt (e.g., aquarium salt or marine salt mix) and stir well. When it's dissolved, dunk the fish for a short period. At first, do this for about 1-2 minutes, each day, for two or three days. This should clean up the open wounds, much like iodine does on wounds on humans. It isn't a cure for the pathogen, but by cleaning the wound it helps the medication get to the pathogens more easily and so helps the fish heal more quickly. As you've noticed, your fish is swimming into the 'cleanest' water. Fish do this when sick, and it's something that happens in the wild. When fish are sick they will swim towards warmer patches of water to speed up their immune systems, effectively "running a fever". So, there's your list of things to do: 1. Check water quality; 2. Add Finrot/fungus medication; 3. Dip fish in salty water. Follow that, and I think your catfish has a good chance of surviving. I've seen Plecs come back from far worse. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Treating Pleco Wounds -- 07/26/07
Me again. Quick question. I don't have a quarantine tank. Will it be ok to treat the entire tank? Reminder: 20 Corys, 4 tetras, 5 Rasboras, 1 Danio. I'll start treatment ASAP. Pay on the way. Thanks so much! Tara <Hello again Tara! You should be fine treating all these fish together in the one tank. Be sure and remove the carbon from the filter (if you use any) and always follow the instructions on the packaging to the letter. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Treating Pleco Wounds -- 08/17/07
Hi again, I just had to let you know how things turned out. Cosmus (the Pleco) was looking really bad. Laying on his side, bloody sores, etc. So we finally decided to euthanize him. My husband went out to get Clove Oil, and we put water in a bucket. Then we read the part about the vodka. No vodka in the house, so he went out again to pick up a bit. Comes back and gets ready to start the process. I told him that I couldn't watch and started to leave the room. Right then Cosmus straightened up and started swimming around! It was like a Monty Python skit (but I'm not dead yet). So we changed our minds. Did a major water change, and everything else we could think of, including cleaning everything in the tank. Here we are three plus weeks later. Didn't lose a single fish. Cos only has a very small place on his tail that we're still treating. He's eating and swimming, and coming up for me to hand feed. I think I read on your site that you shouldn't give up on these guys and you're right. He did lose some of his tail fin, shortening him from 15 inches to about 13 and a half, but other than that.... Thanks for your help. Tara <Hello Tara. Nice to have a story with a happy ending! Fish have amazing recuperative powers. His tail will grow back. Have you ever seen pictures of wild piranhas mating? They bite chunks out of each other, down to the spine sometimes. A few weeks later, they're right as rain. I'm always loathe to give up on an injured fish, and more than once I've seen a fish seemingly come back from the dead. Anyway, good luck, and enjoy your fish. Neale>

Unidentified Otocinclus illness 7/6/07 Hello all, I am new to posting on WWM, but I have found your site to be very informative. It has helped me better understand my tank and helped me prevent more than a few problems from happening. <Am very glad for this aiding> I have a 29 gallon freshwater, planted tank that is just under 6 months old. The tank has been cycled for approximately 3 months with ammonia and nitrite steadily at zero. The nitrate vacillates between 5 and 10 ppm. My pH is about 7.5 (I use tap water which has a pH of about 8.2 and I use a Neutral buffer, but 7.5 is as low as it goes; I also use driftwood in the water, but my pH is still around 7.5).I do 25% water changes on a weekly basis. The tank has both fish and shrimp. There are 5 zebra Danios, 4 dwarf neon Rainbowfish (2 male, 2 female), one young Bushynose Pleco, a 2" SAE (which I am working on removing from the tank), <Are not easy to catch!> a pair of orange platies, a pair of honey dwarf gouramis, 1 bumble bee goby, <Mmm, actually more of a brackish organism> 2 Otos that are gray/black and 1 Oto (labeled by the LFS as an "Oto niger") that is brown. In terms of shrimp, I have 5 red shrimp, 4 Amanos, and 1 green shrimp (that has changed color to a deep red). I do not have a CO2 set up (much to the dismay of many of my fellow planted tank enthusiasts). <Mmm, okay> I have had the Otos for nearly 5 months and one died unexpectedly (that is no sign of illness, discoloration, strange behavior) about three weeks ago. This happened to be the day after I introduced the Oto niger. <Mmmm> I was shocked since the Otos are always so active. However, now I have noticed that one of my gray/black Otos has some discoloration. The only way I can describe it is that it looks like it is wearing a yarmulke/skull cap. <I see this> It is a clearish sort of circle on the top of its head. I have attached a photo for you to review. The fish seems much more lethargic than usual (and than its fellow Otos) and I am not sure what sort of illness it is or if/how I can save this fish. I posted something on my planted aquarium web group and one woman said she had the same problem, but no idea why or how to deal with it. Her Oto just died from whatever this is. I am hoping I won't have to lose another fish. I look forward to your reply. Any advice you could offer would be great. Brian (in SF) <This marking appears at times from animals that have been damaged in shipping (their heads rubbed repeatedly by others in the bag)... and by negative interaction with other Loricariids... I would keep a sharp eye out to see if the Bushynose of congeneric (other Otocinclus species) is working this fish woe. No "treatment" other than separation is recommended. Bob Fenner>

Re: Unidentified Otocinclus illness (follow-up)   7/7/07 Hey Bob (and others), <<You've got one of the 'others' this trip, Brian. Tom with you this time.>> Wow! Thanks for the reply! You hit the nail right on the head with the other Loricariids. <<Bob's pretty good at hitting the nail on the head, Brian.>> About three hours after I posted this, my Bushynose Pleco was trying to devour the Oto. The Oto was actually still alive and I managed to startle the Bushynose Pleco off. The Oto swam away. However, the Oto was clearly wounded because about 10 minutes later one of my Amanos had the poor fish by its tail and was trying to drag it around the tank. I tried isolating the Oto, but it appeared to be dead - no movement, discoloration, etc. Of course, I went to dispose of it in the toilet and it started to move again. However, I figured once I had exposed it to the untreated water (Chloramine) of the toilet there was no coming back. <<A bad day all around for that poor, little guy.>> Is the only way to prevent this from happening again (my other two Otos are colored just fine) to make sure that I choose an Oto with deep color to begin with? <<Not necessarily, Brian. Otos are often transported in groups of mixed species. In fact, what might be marketed as an 'Otocinclus' could very well be one of the 'Parotocinclus' species, some of which are more of a light brown (to keep it simple) in color. The so-called Golden Oto is one of these. As a small bit of trivia, a true Otocinclus does not have an adipose fin -- a small fin along the back between the dorsal and caudal (tail) fins. An adipose fin on an 'Oto' marks it as a Parotocinclus. (If you're intent on boring someone to tears, share this with them. :) )>> The LFS from which I bought the Otos described them as high-risk fish (always!) due to the cyanide that is often used to catch them in the wild and the stress of transport. However, I figured after 3-4 months of living in a tank with good water quality that I was home free. I guess I was wrong. <<Cyanide harvesting is a valid cause but transport stress is probably more likely the culprit in the early deaths of these fish. Otos (to keep it 'generic') can't digest algae (cellulose). Rather they have anaerobic bacteria in their guts that do the work and the fish is 'nourished' off of the by-products of this process. During transport, so much of the bacteria may die off from lack of food that, even when the Oto is placed back into an algae-rich environment, the fish literally starves to death, i.e. the algae passes through the fish's system untouched, so to speak. Now, the biology lesson notwithstanding, one of the best methods of selecting a healthy Oto is to find a 'fat' one and only select specimens that have spent at least a couple of weeks at the LFS. If the fish's stomach is flat or concave, pass it by. The prospects for a skinny Oto's long-term survival are not good at all.>> Two clarifications to Bob's "mmms". I brought up the lack of CO2 setup, but neglected to say that I regularly use Flourish Excel (liquid CO2). <<Not 'splitting hairs' here, Brian, but the Excel product isn't 'liquid CO2' though it does supplement the tank with carbon, as does CO2, but rather from organic matter. (Guess that did sound like I was splitting hairs, didn't it? :) )>> Second, regarding the bumble bee gobies as brackish water species. I had read this and had crossed them off my original stocking list for that reason. However, a LFS which only carries freshwater fish (or at least only has freshwater tanks) raved about the success they have with this particular bumble bee goby in fresh water. Despite its picky eating (which seems to be common for this fish), it seems to be getting along just fine. <<I would share the same concerns that Bob, no doubt, has with regard to this animal, Brian. An LFS's short-term success with keeping a brackish species in FW doesn't equate to long-term success for you or your pet. Very often, brackish water species start out in FW but must make the transition as they mature in order to thrive/survive. Time will tell, of course, but it's best to keep an eye out for otherwise unexplained problems should they arise.>> Again, many thanks for your wisdom and your willingness to share it. <<More than happy to help, Brian. Good luck and best regards.>> <<Tom>>

My Pleco may be in dire straits? Not the band.   3/14/07 Greetings, <Hi there> I lost all of my freshwater fish to a ruptured tank. <Yikes! No fun>   The only survivor was my 8 year old Plec.  S/he has been hanging in there for the last 21 days and has survived a tank cycle. <With damage...> After a few days I noticed a lesion on the tail which looked very much like a hickey.  There were tiny dots of redness in a full band around the tail.  A few days later the patterned skin sloughed off in that area, exposing a bright white scaly looking skin.  A few more days later and this white skin had come off completely exposing the flesh directly to the cycling aquarium water.  Then I installed a bubble curtain and found that my Pleco absolutely loves nothing more than parking himself in the bubble curtain 24/7.   I don't know if the extra air is helping with his tail but I have hope that it may be looking better - or not, I just can't tell. The wounded area started to turn a milky gray color in a pattern similar enough to his existing skin to make me believe he might be regrowing his skin? <I do hope so> Also, fluid filled bubbles or lesions - blisters of some kind have formed on the wound.  I don't know if this is an infection or just a healing blister the same as we would get from a burn.  By the way, it may look like a burn but it isn't a burn because I do not keep a heater in the tank. <Mmm, not a burn> My plec's name is Louie.  He (or she) is 8 years old.   I do not observe any velvet or Ich. His color is perfect - no sign of stress this way. The current tank conditions are 78 degrees NH3 between .02-.05 <Needs to be zero> Ph is around 7.0 Ammonia is around 2.0 <...? is NH3... and/or NH4OH... Needs to be zero> We have been doing water changes of 10-25% every other day. <Mmm, too frequently. You need to do what it takes to cycle this system> We are using a dechlorinator, stress coat, and cycle bacteria additive. The water is clear. This is a 37 gallon Eclipse tank (filter in lid, no external components) We use a pump with a 36" air bubble curtain for extra aeration. We salvaged the substrate, ornaments, filter media, and BioWheel from the failed tank and installed them on the first day with this new tank.  The old filter was piggybacked on the new filter and the BioWheel, being too small to fit in the new housing, was floated in the tank. <Good> Both of which have now been discarded. There are four goldfish in the tank - they do not bother the Pleco. <Actually... they are so "messy" they do> I am enclosing a picture strip of the progression of this malady and hope that you can help me identify it and guide me to treatment if there is one.    As of this writing this is day 21.  The current condition is the same as the final picture in this strip, however the lesions on the right side have either burst or have been reabsorbed.  There is only one smaller bubble on that side. The red fluid coating the bottoms of the bubbles may be blood or pus ? Thank you for your assistance, Best, Valorie <Well... see the above... this system needs to be cycled... And this Pleco needs different tankmates... No "treatment" recommended otherwise... The real cure here is to improve the environment. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>
Re: My Pleco may be in dire straits?   3/15/07 Bob, I do thank you so much for your quick and helpful reply but what I really wanted to know, and should have conveyed better, is your opinion on  whether the wound will heal or if you think it is a disease or  infection which can contaminate the tank. <I do think this fish, problem will heal itself (appears to be doing so)... and not infect the goldfish> Since writing the first correspondence there have been a few changes. Best of all, the main tank has cycled. <Ah, very good news>   The ammonia is 0, nitrates are  very nearly 0 as well. We have stopped the frequent water changes and will begin our normal   maintenance schedule. <Good also> We purchased a hospital tank and stocked it with gravel and water and  filter media from the main tank.  The levels are fine.   The  Pleco was introduced and medicated.  Overnight he became stressed  and shows patchy discoloration.   The blisters burst, the wound  is pink/red.  By next day it was developing new blisters.  I did  not like the stressed look so I moved him back to the main tank and he is doing  fine again.   I feel like an idiot and I hope you are repressing the  desire to agree with me. <Mmmm... must... key.... carefully. Heeeee! No worries> Since the levels are very good in the main tank I wonder if you might turn your opinion to the condition of the wound itself.  I have never witnessed such a thing - I am unable to find similar pictures on the internet, nor similar   stories of recovery. <Akin to "flesh eating bacteria"... there are always present (yes, always) bacteria and other microbes which can/do become more active, pathogenic... given circumstances, opportunity> As of today (including a picture) s/he looks to be   doing better.  The skin seems to be growing back - will the plate grow back  as well? <Possibly... Sometimes do> It is hard for me to tell.  This guy likes to hide and I try not  to bother him for photographs unless he's where I can see him easily. In a few days/week time I will move the goldfish to the outdoor pond and   they will no longer be a bother to the catfish in the main aquarium.   My LFS doesn't carry peat.  I've never used it in the tank before,  where do you buy it? <Mmm, large hardware, garden shops... In small bags, not pony bales, unless you can use this/it in your garden as well... do boil (to soften, soak) first... let the water cool and use this as (yes, it's the same) "black water tonic"> Is the peat from the home garden center treated with  anything that would harm my fish? <Some are... you can tell this by testing the water, if you just soak it, instead of the recommended boiling. You will find the pH not drifting downward... Just boil...> Nobody at the LFS ever heard of "bogwood", is the driftwood sold for  reptile aquariums the same thing? <Mmm, not all, no. You can test... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/rkwduseaq.htm and the linked files above> Can I use a fallen and rotting oak  branch from my own backyard? <Mmm, no... not Quercus... this and many other hardwoods are actually quite toxic to aquatic life> <BobF>

Bristlenose Plec dis.   9/9/06 I have a male Bristlenose catfish, two years old he is four and half inches long. He is in a 300 litre tank, he used to be kept with Neons, Glowlights and platies. He was very happy, I fed him on catfish pellets, algae wafers, bloodworms, brine shrimps and daphnia. Now he is living with tinfoil barbs. he's not as happy and hides under the filter, he is only getting the catfish pellets and algae wafers, as the tinfoil barbs eat everything else first, I have noticed that he is not cleaning the tank as well for the past week. And he has a lump on his snout in front of one eye, I have telephoned all my local aquatic shops, no one seems to have heard of this before, I'm very worried, to me is looks like a cyst, apart from this his colouring and general condition is very good. I hope you can help me, as the children are very fond of catty! Wait to hear from you, Sue < As your Pleco roots around for food he probably injured himself on a piece of wood or rock. The area may be infected. I would recommend treating him in a hospital tank with Nitrofuranace or Kanamycin as per the directions on the package.-Chuck>

Skin Irritation on Top of Pleco's Nose   2/1/06 Hi, <Hello> I've noticed that one of my Pleco's has a pretty severe skin irritation on the top of it's nose. <Pretty common... most such start with rubbing "in the bag" during catching, shipping...> It started out as a whitish scale-like abrasion, which quickly turned to an outer layer of blood around the abrasion.  In addition, one of my aggressive fish has begun to pick at the Pleco, which has added to its stress.  As a result, I have put the Pleco into a separate tank, and have begun administering medicine (Gel-Tek and Melafix). Can you please shed some light as to what this might be?  Thanks! Deb Fair <Might be simply the original "owee", perhaps a secondary infection involved... aided by the aggression you speak of... I would add a level teaspoon of aquarium salt per ten actual gallons of system water to the Plecos water... it should heal in time. Bob Fenner>

Pleco headache Hi guys/ladies. I have a 90 gallon fresh water tank with a common Pleco, he's about 5 to 6 inches now. When I got him he was about a inch, so he's doing quite well. I am hoping to have him as long as possible. Now for my problem, he seems to be going to the top of the tank for air and smashing his head in to the cover. I cant figure out why he's been doing this. He's been doing it for about 4 months now. I have a air pump on one side of the tank and on the other the filter. Both oxygenate the water quite well, I think. He started doing it in my 55 gallon hex tank. Now I also have a much smaller clown Pleco in there too and he doesn't go to the top at all, that I have seen. So do you think that its some thing I should worry about? Thanks Lukas <Hi Lukas, Don here. It could be that there is something about the water he does not like. Do you test the water? Add salt? Ever see him or others scratch against a rock (flashing) or the bottom? Do you change water? How often? Any type of film floating on top? All that being said, I've seen Plecos do some strange stuff. I had one that would swim upside down at the surface to get his share of flake. If your water tests OK, salt is low to none, and you don't see any flashing, I'd say he's OK, just strange>
Pleco Headache pt 2
I haven't noticed any FLASHING. Why would he do this? I add a little aquarium salt with every water change. Would that maybe make him do this? I do a water change about 3 to 4 buckets so about 12 to 16 gallons every 2 weeks. There is nothing floating on the top of the water and I test the water 1 a month at home I have been thinking about taking a sample to my LFS. He doesn't look like he has any abrasions. I was looking at him yesterday after work and he looked right back and look quite healthy. I have also been told that Plecos need wood in there diet. So I placed a piece of drift wood in the tank that I brought back from Vancouver island. It's a piece that is quite heavy. Went right to the bottom. Thanks again. Lukas <If that driftwood was EVER soaking in saltwater, and I assume it was, get it out right away. Replace with a piece from the LFS at some point. Do a big water change without salt. Plecos do not like salt in the water. They can handle some, but we have no idea how much salt and other minerals are coming out of the wood. That may be why he's trying to jump out. Make sure you cover any openings. Don> 

Pleco Injury Hey I could use some advice. <OK> while moving my tank--I had to remove all the fish and in the process my Pleco sustained what looked like a not too serious scrape on his back--he doesn't like being netted or moved and I'm not sure if he banged himself trying to get away from the net or when I put him inside a cooler or if I injured him by getting him stuck in the netting itself but he did sustain a white scrape--some of his scales looked a little banged up as well--but it didn't look bad. <common injury> Until today--now instead of slightly whitish discoloration it looks bloody though the blood appears to be under the skin and the wound is not open. What should I do to treat him--wound ease or something like that in the tank or do I need to dose the tank with some sort of antibiotic or both? <a separate QT tank with a broad spectrum antibiotic would be ideal... but dose the main tank if you must, remove carbon temporarily and do extra water changes for a couple of weeks. A Furazolidone based medication will likely do the trick> I don't want this to get worse--it seems it already has--I meant to get something in the tank yesterday and then got distracted and forgot. I'm just glad I forgot to salt the aquarium while I was being absent-minded! <actually, the salt would be helpful and therapeutic. One tablespoon per ten gallons minimum> any help you can give me would be most appreciated. I'd like to get the stuff tomorrow. Thanks, Karen <best regards, Anthony>
Pleco Injury
Thanks Anthony, <very welcome, my friend> you know the main thing with fishkeeping is you get so much conflicting advice-- <conflicting is fine and even productive...inaccurate is another matter altogether <wink>> today I went to Petco before I received your email and the guy there said --Plecos are very hardy--don't dose the tank with anything unless he develops an infection--but then he recommended Penicillin--so I got that figuring I would wait and see if I needed it. <my advice would be to return it... that is a gram positive medication and very few bacteria in aquaria respond to it (mainly diseases of livebearing fishes). What you need is a broad spectrum antibiotic regime (like the aforementioned Furazolidone/Nitrofurazone cocktail)> The dose is every other day for five days. Will this do? <I doubt that it will help or hurt much...save your money> I put in Stress Coat--and since you say salt is ok I guess I will salt the tank as well. <yes... the salt is almost always a very helpful tonic in freshwater> The problem with the QT tank is that he is going to thrash and dodge and carry on and that is how he was injured in the first place once he gets in a sick tank he will probably throw himself against the lid in a panic--I figure my established tank is healthy and clean----brand new Rena Filstar XP on it--freshly cleaned gravel etc--old UG filter still in operation--so I feel the water quality is good---I really need to find this Pleco a new home--he needs a pond or a huge open tank--he is like 12" long and large. <I don't disagree with the above... but any antibiotics can wreak havoc on a biological filter which will require extra water changes... and thus the reason for the standard warning to always treat in a QT tank... less drugs needed, smaller water changes required, and the biological filter than supports many other fishes won't be compromised and stress them possibly into disease as well. You can treat the display if you feel it is best... but beware of the above> I have a question for you about quarantine tanks-sick tanks generally--people make such a big deal about cycling new tanks and not just putting fish into new water-without biological filtration being established and nitrate/nitrite levels going down--what about sick tanks--isn't that hard on fish--to dump them in a new tank that hasn't been cycled when they are sick? <a properly set up QT tank does not run that way. A QT tank rarely needs to be up and running... dry and ready is good enough. A simple $5 sponge filter can be running in the back of the display tank (or a sump on marine aquaria) at all times... thus biologically conditioned and easily able to handle the load of a new fish or sick fish transferred out. When the occasion arises in need of QT, the "dirty"/established sponge filter is moved to the QT tank with 50% aged water from the display. The QT and the display are then topped off with new water. Your mistaken impression is not at all uncommon. Bottom line... QT is necessary... saves money and lives when you think about the great investment in a full display tank to be risked with every new fish randomly thrown in> Ideally I suppose I should set up a hospital/quarantine tank and leave it running--with no fish in it--guess I would have to dose it every so often with live bacteria-- <no need to bother of course... just a simple sponge filter in the main display... hide the QT in the garage dry <smile> for fear of filling it> but I have not gotten around to this yet--maybe I will make that a plant propagation tank as I want to plant my 55 and feel the Silver Dollar will mow it all down in two days anyway--ha, ha I will need replacement plants on a continual basis. <agreed!> thanks for the advice Karen <best regards, Anthony>

Re: Pleco with big spot I am replying to you again to send better pics of the Pleco. <Yes, these show the affected spot much better> I have now set up the 18 gal tank, and quarantined him. <Very good> I am still unable to truly know exactly what this is he has. He displays no signs of any of the descriptions I've researched, other than the obvious raised cysts you can see in the pics. Basically, about all I have found are these 2 things, and have found no references after endless searching as to exactly what it could be, and even if it is the Ichthyosporidiosis, how to treat Ichthyosporidiosis (other than this one reference to food additives and water treatment). One of the descriptions even indicates that at the point that cysts appear its most likely too late for the fish. This greatly saddens me. Here are the 2 descriptions I have come across: Ichthyosporidiosis A. Ichthyophonus hoferi; large 10-250 micron spores which may germinate to form large hyphae (similar to the hyphae of Saprolegnia). B. This fungus infects all species of fish. C. Clinically the fish are emaciated with small round occasionally ulcerated black granulomas in the skin. Scoliosis is occasionally observed. Internally numerous granulomas are observed in many visceral organs. Microscopically the lesion consists of granulomas with encysted large PAS-positive spores. Occasionally large irregular shaped hyphae are observed. D. Transmission is unknown. Ichthyosporidium Symptoms: Sluggishness, loss of balance, hollow belly, external cysts and sores. Ichthyosporidium is a fungus, but it manifests itself internally. It primarily attacks the liver and kidneys, but it spreads everywhere else. The symptoms vary. The fish may become sluggish, lose balance, show hollow bellies, and eventually show external cysts or sores. By then it is usually too late for the fish. Treatment is difficult. Phenoxethol added to food as a 1% solution may be effective. Chloromycetin added to the food has also been effective. But both of these treatments, if not watched with caution, could pose a risk to your fish. It is best, if diagnosed soon enough, to destroy the affected fish before the disease can spread. Here are the latest pics: (also notice how he always gets all splotchy with areas of lighter color on his skin for a few days after I have moved him.) <OK, I have conferred with others on the crew and Bob suggests that this may actually be the Pleco's internal mass showing through after and injury. He's seen this before in some pond fish and it generally heals itself with time. You may want to keep him QT'd during this time just to make sure no other fish pick on him and in case you do need to medicate but it's not absolutely necessary at this point. The lighter colored splotches that you see when you move him are just from stress and will disappear once he relaxes again. Ronni>

Re: Pleco with big spot OK, here's the thing though. Last July, when I picked this Pleco up from my sister (the previous owner) I transported him and an Oscar 6 hrs north to my house. It was a rough ride, and later I discovered transporting them the way I did was a no, no. The Oscar died the next day. The day after that, as I was setting up the tank, and preparing to put the Pleco in, we noticed the spot, and wondered if he had been injured during the move. <Possibly> I asked my sister (who was in poor health, and actually hadn't looked at the fish tank in about 4 months) and she said, well, last time I saw him, he didn't have any sores. Now keep in mind, that he was in a tank, that the water had gone down to about half way, no water changes had been done in all those months, the filtration system was turned off all that time, and it was questionable whether they had been fed any time recent, or if there were even any fish in the tank, because the water was so murky, you couldn't even see anything but grey murky water. <Goes to show how "tough" these animals are> I fished around through the water later and discovered the Oscar and the Pleco. After observing that sore back in July 2002, I have kept an eye on him, and the sore has not gotten smaller, its gotten bigger. He has been in a 65 gal tank with other tropicals and lots of plants and ornaments, until I moved him to this 18 gal tank for quarantine the other day. (which he is mad about, I've observed him trying to swim around, and he bumps against the glass, then swims to the top, then bumps the glass again, like he is having trouble accepting that this tank is smaller than what he is used to. Have never seen him do that in the other tank) So, I suppose its possible this is an injury. My question is, why has it gotten bigger? <Perhaps a continuing infection, maybe secondary> I also suppose he could be re-injuring it, but if so, I have seen no behaviour to indicate how or when he would have, other than the last few days in the new tank. Kirk <Catfishes come in two "varieties", "naked" and armored... Plecos are of the latter group. Once the skin and armor is broken it can be trying to cure an infectious disease. Bob Fenner>
Pleco with big spot I have some questions in regards to my 8 year old Pleco that is about 13 inches long. I received this Pleco from my sister who owned him for those previous 8 years. After setting up my tank, I noticed he had a spot on his side, and wondered if he had been injured during the move. But now that time has passed, I can see it is getting bigger, and would like to know what it is, and how to get rid of it. It appears as a spot about a quarter of an inch around, and about a quarter of an inch high (rounded like a dome coming up from the skin) but looks as though it is made up of smaller black or grey bubbles piled on one another. I have included pictures of him, both original pics, and pics where I circled the spot, I hope they are clear, and you can make out what it looks like, and help me figure out how to take care of it. I realize they are not focused on the spot, which may make it harder to see, while the picture itself appears clear, and also, I hope they are not too dark. Please let me know. Thank you. Kirk Saffell <Very nice pictures and a very nice tank! Do take a look at http://www/wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwfshparasites.htm especially Ichthyosporidium and Metacercariae (Flukes) as your description and the pictures lead me to believe it's one of these. You will need to isolate this fish into a quarantine tank and then treat him according to the recommendations at the link above. Ronni>
Re: Pleco with big spot Yes, I have done all of those. Although, about every 3 to 4 weeks, it seems I will see a fish staying constantly at the top, and picked on by other fish, then a few days later, is dead. As far as ammonia, the natural cycling of the tank would show a high level of ammonia before high nitrites, and then nitrates. I am currently out of Nitrite/Nitrate test sticks, I do have ammonia testing available, and it remains at 0. (Although a test at PetCo after fish had died indicated slightly high ammonia, I immediately went home and tested, and my test kit indicated 0.) <That's the correct pattern but sometimes an ammonia spike will be so fast that if you aren't testing daily you will miss it. I recently had a new tank show 0 ammonia but the nitrites were at 5. This was after just one day of being set up. However, I don't think that's the problem in this case. Since these are smaller tropicals (judging from your photos), it is still possible that whatever is on your Pleco is killing them even though they don't show signs of it. I know I said yesterday it wasn't likely but I did some thinking on this last night and with the small size of them it is possible that there would be no visible symptoms.> I have considered that the 2 indications I mentioned point to 1 of 2 things - a fish constantly at the top is supposed to indicate a lack of oxygen or burning of gills, correct? <Usually> And being picked on by other fish of the same species indicates something may be wrong with that fish, right? <With the types I saw in your pictures, yes. These are generally non aggressive fish that don't often pick on their own species.> I have made a few mistakes. Buying fish from PetCo and immediately introducing them into the tank. After doing so, I had been at the same PetCo a few days later, and noticed a lot their fish had Ich, or the cotton effect, and a lot of their tanks had dead fish floating in them. I pointed this out to them, but they really could have cared less. <Ouch. Unfortunately, this is all too common.> What I learned from that situation is, don't buy fish from anyone who doesn't care about the condition of the fish. <Sometimes there's no other option though. A strict QT period is necessary for all new additions, regardless of where it's purchased.> I suppose this might be a cause of some of them dying. <Not the Ich but they may have been mis-handled somewhere along the line. Or they may have some sort of internal problem. At this point, I would recommend just keeping exact track of when you lose a fish. Mark the day on your calendar and see if you're actually losing them as often as it seems. And when one is dying, inspect it closely both before and after death to see if you can find anything.> I appreciate your help with this, but I still haven't found enough meaty info by looking on this site, do you have any exact links that go in depth? Or any other sites that give a step to step? <Unfortunately, I don't. Use your favorite search engine to search for Plecostomus disease and see what it pulls up.> One of the descriptions of the problem suspected with the Pleco, says Black or yellow nodules, ulcers on or under skin. ON the skin would be accurate. It actually looks like a dime sized area where someone piled caviar. So this one, I tend to think is not it - Flukes. Red or Black nodules under skin. Please let me know at your earliest convenience. Thanks. Kirk <I agree but I couldn't see closely in the pictures so figured they were both worth mentioning. At this point, unless you find something more definitive in your search, isolate him and treat him for Ichthyosporidium. Have you been feeding him anything or just letting him eat what's in the tank? If you aren't already, you may want to try supplementing him with algae wafers, particularly ones with Spirulina. I am very sorry that I haven't been of more help! Oh, the correct link (since I gave you a broken one yesterday!) is http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwfshparasites.htm Ronni>
Re: Pleco with big spot He has been in a tank with many other tropical fish, are they infected then? I lose about 1 fish every month, is this why? Kirk <It's possible but they would probably have been showing some kind of symptoms. My guess is that the losses are from something else. Have you tested your ammonia and nitrites recently and kept up with the water changes? Ronni>

Re: Pleco with big spot Yes, I have always fed him algae discs, but when I feed the fish, he always goes to the top and gets as much of that as he can too. I feed him 3 or 4 discs at a time (since he is so big) about every other day. (since I know he eats the other fish food too) <Very good> I have an 18 Gallon tank that I took down when I moved, and never set it back up. I had a lot of trouble with that tank. Fish always died. The temp was incredibly difficult to keep steady (thus I bought a Tronic settable heater) The gravel in the tank was large gravel, which I later learned is a no, no, especially in a smaller tank. It had only an undergravel filter, which wasn't doing the job, so I bought a small power filter for it. But fish were always dying, and I was always busting the small Pleco in that tank, harassing, attacking, or eating the other fish. I got rid of that Pleco, and moved the remaining fish from that tank (molly babies) To my 65 Gal. (where the 13 inch Pleco is) <Not uncommon with some Pleco's. They're generally mild mannered but once in a while they can be a terror. For now, I would suggest setting the 18g back up with the power filter, no gravel, a heater, and a light if you have one.> Also, that smaller tank, when I would look close at the gravel, had some very tiny white creatures, about the size of a speck of dust, swimming and squirming around in it. I was told this was sometimes normal, and those creatures were not harmful to the fish, but actually gave them more protein to eat. <Yes, it's true that these are harmless. Many tanks seem to get them.> Anyway I will get some smaller gravel and set that tank up, but shouldn't it sit with only water, gravel, plants and filtering for about 4 weeks to get the cycle in place? <Nope, you can set it up and begin using it immediately by filling it with water from your 65g. Try to get some of the dirt that accumulates in the gravel and put it in the 18g also. This will seed your tank and you won't have to wait for the full cycle. You will still have to monitor ammonia and nitrites and possibly do a few water changes but by setting it up this way you can at least reduce the cycle period to just a few days (my longest cycle period with this method has been about 4 days)> Would it be safe to treat the entire 65 Gallon tank for what the Pleco has? <It's not recommended. Some fish are more sensitive to medications than others and you also run the risk of medicating fish that don't need it.> And if so, will doing so destroy the carbon in the filters, thus they should be removed? Does any type of additive that requires removal of the carbon cause harm to the fish if put in and carbon is not removed? In other words, does it cause a reaction or dissolve the carbon and send it into the water, being dangerous for the fish, or does it just ruin the carbon? Or, does the carbon do its job and remove the additive from the water making it a waste of time to use the additive? <The latter. It doesn't ruin the carbon but the carbon removes the medication.> OK, enough for now, thanks again for your help. Kirk <You're welcome! Ronni>

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