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FAQs about Scorpionfishes: Diseases

Related Articles: Lionfish & Their Relatives, Keeping Lionfishes and their Scorpaeniform Kin Part 1, Part 2, by Anthony Calfo and Robert Fenner, Dwarf Lionfishes,

FAQs on Scorpionfishes: Scorpaeniform Fishes 1, Scorpaeniform Fishes 2, Scorpaeniform Fishes 3, Scorpaeniform Fishes 4,
FAQs on Scorpionfishes by Category: Identification, Behavior, Compatibility, Stocking/Selection, Systems, Feeding, Reproduction

Herbal remedies, "fixes" need not apply. And careful w/ Metals, Dyes...

Scorpionfishes: Lionfishes & Much More for Marine Aquariums
Diversity, Selection & Care

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by Robert (Bob) Fenner

Erratic Fish behavior, Scorpaeniform cascade event, losses   3/15/11
Hi there,
I'm relatively new to using WetWebMedia, so forgive me if I do not follow all of your guidelines. Anyways, here's my question--
I have a used 100 gallon tank, with a 180 gallon on the way. My current inhabitants include a dogface puffer(5-6 inches), niger trigger(5-6inches), Vlamingii tang(5inches)(I know it gets huge, it's still pretty small.), and 2 chromis. My tank was overstocked when this happened, and I have lost many fish because of my ignorance to the most important rule of having a SW tank. My former sea goblin was the first one to exhibit these problems. The sea goblin suddenly swam very erratically, and since it was venomous, I was concerned for both my fish and myself. When it died, the symptoms moved to my prized Rhinopias. He died as well.
<Aye yi yi>
I might want to mention that my nitrates were super high 80ppm+, so I think that this caused the first die offs. The fish that start to act weird also stop eating. Then, it moved to my Mombasa lionfish, again, another venomous fish.
He was the only survivor, and is now @ my LFS. When the fish swim erratically, they bash into the glass, rocks, etc. After the lion, my blue throat started doing it, and he knocked himself out from bashing himself against the glass. We removed him, but he did not survive. The tank's nitrates became very good once most of the fish were gone 20ppm.
After a week or so, my fish began showing the same symptoms again. This time it was my niger, doing the same bashing, and stuff. Today, he jumped into my overflow and knocked down one of my heaviest rocks. This has me concerned, as this only happens to one fish at a time. I'm worrying that it'll move onto my puffer and tang, who are like my children (I'm only 14).
I was wondering if it had anything to do with a stray current, but I feel nothing when I stick my hand into the tank.
<Easy to test/measure w/ a simple multi-tester...>
Here are my parameters--
Ammonia- 0ppm
Nitrite- 0ppm
Nitrate- 20-40 ppm (fluctuating, I don't know why-- I think it's my test bottles)
Phosphate- 10ppm
<Yikes! Really? This is way too high>

Ph- 8.0
The dimensions of the tank are 45 x 25 x 20
<And this volume way too small for what you had>
So, can you tell me what's wrong or at least give me an idea? I'm ready to get out of the hobby-- there's a lot of money involved in this, and it's driving me and my folks crazy. Please help!
-Nick, Utica, NY.
<I suspect what you hint at... that metabolite accumulation (as indicated by high NO3) brought about a poisoning by one or more of your fishes... taking the rest w/ them. Less fish life, more room, increased filtration are what you need/ed. Bob Fenner>

Blind Lion Fish 9/26/08 Hi Guys, This is Francis from Brunei Darussalam, a regular visitor of your website for the past couple of years, writing to you guys for the first time. <Well met Francis> Well, I have a six feet reef aquarium stable for the past couple of years, and a four feet with a single lion fish ( he is now more than 18 months old in my tank & around 10 inches in size), trained to eat frozen shrimp. <Good> The four feet has a simple blue & white T5 lighting arrangement. The lion was happy until two weeks back when he suddenly became blind . He is stressed since then ( colour deep red ). I still manage to feed him with feeder stick once in two days, but takes almost an hour to feed. I really pity him , can anything be done, I have no idea of disposing him. Rgds, Francis. <Mmm, the twin "causes" of most all Lionfish blindness are over overly bright lighting (with no caves, overhangs to get out of the light) and avitaminoses. Both are covered on WWM. You can peruse here: http://wetwebmedia.com/liondisfaqs.htm and the linked files in the series (above) or use the search tool... "Lionfish Blindness" here: http://wetwebmedia.com/WWMAdminSubWebIndex/question_page.htm  Bob Fenner>
Re: Blind Lion Fish  - 09/28/08
Thanks for the tip Bob, The FAQs & articles provide information on the causes for lionfish blindness. Has there been any case of a blind lionfish regaining its eyesight ( too ambitious !!! ). <Yes my friend> I am sure he will perish if I let him go into the sea, <Please... never release life to novel habitats> the store will not take him back, so decided to keep him as long he can go even though there is no more fun. It has become more a responsibility than pleasure. I made some alterations to the live rock landscaping & reduced lighting. Thanks again. Rgds, Francis. <And even if blind, these fish/es can be trained to accept foods offered by tongs... Bob Fenner>

Re: Blind Lion Fish...Ribbon Eel 10/6/08
Bob & Crew, <Bob is out of net access, Scott V. with you.> Sad news Bob, my lion gradually stopped eating. I couldn't do anything.  Knew he was in his last days. Requested the LFS lady to keep him till he passes away. Couldn't bear to see him die in my home after 18 months.  Finally he died after one week in the LFS. <Sorry to hear this.> One more blunder again. Saw a blue ribbon eel ( almost 3 ft long) at the store which had arrived recently, fell in love & bought it immediately (emptied my wallet). Later checked your web site , worried now. <...> Made a nice home with PVC pipes & bends, he has settled down well in it.  But the fellow hasn't eaten for five days, I am trying all tricks & gimmicks, but no results.  When will I ever learn ? Don't know what to do. <I would return him if at all possible. Do check to see all livestock actually feeds before buying. Even then these eels are usually better left in the ocean!> Rgds, Francis. <Scott V.>

Red volitin lionfish... Env. troubles... induced 05/23/08 My husband is deployed and in middle east and we have a 100gal tank with lionfish, wrasse, angel fish, clowns, tangs, butterlfly fish, live rock, condilastic anemones, and rose anemones. This tank is really his baby. It's an established tank for over 2 years. The lionfish is over 10 inches (named Triton) and is showing signs of ich. He's got cloudy eyes and some spots. Started after he added the rose anemone . I've changed water, tested for ph and nitrate problems, etc. I do not have a quarantine tank. I know I can treat for ich with meds but might kill the anemones, rock, and lionfish. Is there another way. Keep in mind, I'm really learning as I go. <All of us... the situation here is really one of troubles due to crowding... you need to remove the anemones... likely some of the fishes... or get/use a much larger system... Please read re the needs (systems) of the species listed here on WWM... add up the gallonage... you're vastly short. Bob Fenner>

Volitans ate a suction cup - Take Extreme Caution When Handling! 10/18/05 Bob, I wanted to share a story with you and your readers. My 10" Volitans Lionfish, Leo, got himself into quite a predicament this morning, but luckily he survived it. Leo, you see eats EVERYTHING. He eats frozen cubes normally but this morning as I was cleaning the tank a blue suction cup came lose (about 1/2" diameter) from a tube. I saw it and shooed him away.  Before I could grab it he went in for seconds and ATE it. I was beside myself on the web trying to find a solution. All I could find is that they do not regurgitate and basically he would die. I refused to give up and planned to trap and catching with clean, new rubber kitchen gloves and pluck it out of his mouth (which was open) with long surgical tweezers.  The ending: as I was chasing him around the tank he expelled the item and I grabbed it this time quick before he could go for thirds. He seems no worse for the wear. The suction cup was kind of slimy though, as if he was trying to digest it. He had it in him for about an hour. Would my plan have worked? I was desperate to save him. Chrissi <Mmm, I am very cautious around pteroine fishes, having been "stung", poked a few times... the spines in question will go right through gloves... Am very glad yours chose to cough up the object. Bob Fenner> 

Help with Lionfish Please help my poor lionfish.  I've had had him for about six months and he has grown enormous and done very well.  We recently went on vacation for one week and had a friend care for the fish with our detailed  instructions.  The clown dish died while we were gone and the lionfish is very sick he has a film all over him and obviously can't breath.  We have called all the shops that we normally frequent and no one has been of any help.  I am an uneducated aquarium owner but I do love my fish please tell me what to do!!!!!!!!!!!! >>Ok, I'm not going to bother you with any other details, here's what the rule is when in doubt--DO A WATER CHANGE.  I'd not worry about vacuuming the substrate, I'd just remove about 50% of the water and replace with fresh (either seawater purchased at the LFS) and heated to temp, or mixed at home and aerated/circulated) for 24 hours ASAP, and plan to have another one the next day. >>In the meantime, you can provide me the following information: >>1: Size of the system >>2: Filtration >>3: Occupants, sizes, & how long at home. >>4: Ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate test readings (other pertinent depending may be needed depending on the type of system *Reef & Type vs. Fish Only/-With Live Rock (FOWLR)* for instance) >>This along with the other information you've provided really helps us help you.  I suspect the water's become polluted, probably because of overfeeding.  A water change will always help this.  Do that, then if he's still looking really bad, or need more help, let me know (just include my name in the response), I'll get back to you ASAP.  Best of luck!  Marina

Fish shedding parts I & II  2/8/03 Piggy the lionfish is starting to change colors and act a little funny.  I read a couple of things about shedding and wondered if any of you had seen this and could describe it for me.  Like what parts do they shed and how often etc. <categorically shedding ("sloughing" is not normal or healthy for most fishes. It is a sign of extreme duress. Usually comprised of mucus, it is tripped by a virulent parasitic infection, or more often by severe changes in water quality (ammonia burn, acidosis from low pH, overmedication, etc)> Also we were looking at a DSB and I saw a reference somewhere on your site for mixing live sand with some kind of sand from Home Depot  to get the required amount.  Is this all right to do and if so could you tell me exactly what kind of sand to use.  I believe I read that on one of the FAQs that Anthony answered, but I'm not sure. <true... most aragonite sand it all the same. Just packaged and marketed differently. Home Depot sells "South Down" brand child's play sand that says on the bag "Caribbean beach sand". It also says not for aquarium use because they have a big contract with a notable aquarium sand distributor that charges a lot more fore the same stuff> Thanks for the help Bryan Flanigan **
 Piggy the Lionfish Part II
Hey guys and gals, Piggy the lion is looking much worse--much much worse. <have you tested all of your water chemistry? Please do. And then follow that wish a water change (as large as can be done safely)> He is currently laying against a rock, kind of on his side, his gills are working pretty hard.  He won't move when we open the cover (he usually comes right up to the top).  His overall color has kind of went from brown and cream to brown and pinkish brown. The color change has been gradual starting about a week ago.  There are no spots or anything unusual that I can see. <has there been an addition of a new fish, rock, plant or coral without quarantine recently? Perhaps a disease was introduced> I feed him frozen prawn and squid. He hasn't really eaten in about 3 days <no worries on the lack of food> I've rechecked all the water tests salinity 1.022, ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrates around 5, ph 8.2 just like it always is.  The temp is 80. Nothing I have read about shedding remotely resembles this. <do move this fish to a QT  tank then and treat with Formalin... never copper with scaleless fishes> I fear he will be bacon in the morning.  I know that's not funny Any suggestions would be appreciated <read through the archives here at WWM on disease and learn freshwater dip protocol... do that until you can get Formalin> Bryan Flanigan Piggy the Lionfish <best regards, Anthony>
Fish Shedding part III (dosing with Formalin) 2/8/03
Hi Anthony- I just mixed up 20 gallons of new water 5 hours ago for a new piece of live rock which is in it.  Can I put him in there or is that too soon after mixing.   <if it has been aerated and has turned clear, it is likely OK (albeit quick). Also, the temperature must be right on and not raised by using hot water (low dissolved O2). Still... all raw water however well-aged is never recommended. Too stressful. Steal some away for the tank and swap with aquarium water. Have no fear of a communicable pathogen... if its there, we know its coming in with the fish anyway. Plus... few cysts are in the water... their are on the body or on the substrate pending hatch. So... take some old water and mix it in please> There has only been one addition, a piece of rock with a couple of polyps and feathery things growing on it.   <likely not a huge risk unless it was bough from a tank that had fish in it recently (in which case it was no different than adding a sick fish without QT). Indeed, the rule of thumb for safety is that every thing wet (plant, algae, rock, fish, coral, sand, etc) gets QT for 4 weeks. Only then can you have piece of mind> It does have a large area that has become completely covered with a dark thick reddish black covering that is slowly spreading to cover the whole piece of rock.   <not related... simply a BGA> Also, my wife is a nurse and has access to 10% Formalin.  Is that it?   <we can use it. Standard fish solutions are actually 35-40%. With this concentration we dose 2-4 ml per 10 liters of saltwater in a bucket (heated) for 30 minutes. With your 10% solution, use 10ml per 10 l (say 3 gallons)> It would be the fastest place to get it. <go for it bub... do this dip daily for 3-5 days minimum. QT tank should be bare bottomed, unlit and gets daily water change from the bottom (siphoning parasites as if they are there)> Thanks for the help Bryan Flanigan <best regards, Anthony>
Fish Shedding - the end.
Hi Anthony- Well Piggy the Lionfish is dead <Alas... I am truly sorry to hear it my friend> The freshwater dip I fear came too late.   <indeed... and no worries on procedure- it is likely that the troubles were much bigger or advanced than the dip could have helped at that point> He was very unresponsive when I netted him.  Didn't struggle at all.  The temp and ph of the freshwater were right on.  He sank to the bottom, twitched slightly every 3-4 seconds about 10-12 times, then extended his fins and spines fully, his gills puffed out and he froze in that position.   <weakened beyond saving it sounds like> I examined him a little and he looks normal except for the color and he has a slight bulge in the anal region. <hmmm...> About a week ago he scooped up a lot of shells with his squid and I was never sure if he coughed them all out.  I did notice that he hung upside down a lot this last week.   <indeed consistent symptomatically with impaction> Any way he's dead now and I don't have the stomach to cut him apart to find out if a shell is in there. <understood and agreed. We know such risks exist an that it all we need to know. Still quite sorry to hear it> I want to thank you for your help.  It does make us feel better that we tried to help our pet even if it still died. I also really appreciate the fact that you got right back to me.  You all are the greatest  Long Live WWM Bryan Flanigan <it is our pleasure and purpose to help here. Wishing you happier times and knowing there will be. Kindly, Anthony>

Lion In Trouble? Hi guys. <Scott F. your guy tonight> I'm having a lionfish problem. Went through FAQ's and they helped me rule out some diseases lol! <Well, they did their job, then!> Red Vol. Lion, had 9 months, 5" long, 50gal tank (for now only of course) tank mates are several smart damsels who hide a lot and a 2.5" Niger Trigger. Water tests show: Ammonia 0 ph 8.2 temp 0 and salinity 1.027, can't find my dang nitrate and nitrite test kits. This tank has been running for about 6 months with no problems. Lion eating mostly silver sides and krill. Trying to get him onto better variety. <Always a good idea...but it's good to see that this fish is eating "marine" foods> Yesterday, I noticed him being more lethargic than usual, sitting on bottom and leaning to one side. He would then heave himself up and swim a bit only to go back down. Now he is just laying on right side in one spot. No visible injuries, parasites or fungus. Not breathing hard and color is still good. I know about shedding, although some people have been calling me nuts and say lions do not ever shed. <They do!> Anyway, this isn't his shedding behavior at all! As I am writing this he has made an attempt to swim about tank, it looks like he is very tired and has trouble staying up. I keep hoping he will suddenly start acting normal, but he just looks pitiful. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Have a wonderful day. <Well, general lethargy is usually a sign of impending disease, or poor water conditions. It's very important that you get those nitrate and nitrite test kits. The results will give you a good "yardstick", as to your water quality. Re-evaluate your husbandry techniques (water changes, protein skimming, etc.), and utilize chemical filtration media, such as activated carbon and Poly Filter. Perhaps there may be some dissolved organics in the water that are degrading it's quality. Be sure to ask yourself if there have been any dramatic shifts in water quality in recent days. Observe this fish extremely carefully for other signs of disease symptoms. Perhaps a prophylactic freshwater dip might help, if you suspect a parasitic infestation...Perhaps best to move this guy to a separate aquarium for this observation and treatment. Sorry I could not be more precise in recommending a course of action, but without seeing the fish, and any other symptoms, it's hard to tell from here. Just trust your judgment on this one...Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Lionfish, ich Next question...He's now been set up for over a week and has ick spots on his fins. What is the best treatment for ick on lionfish? I always try to match treatment with fish to find the least stressful, I hope way of treating them. thanks Trisha <Please see our site, www.WetWebMedia.com re Lionfish Disease, ich, treatments for marine parasitic disease. Bob Fenner>

Lionfish and Melafix
My Lionfish went a little nutty today. He is a juvenile, about 4" long. I've had him about a month and a half. He lives in a lovely tank with perfect ammonia, pH, salinity, temperature, lighting, etc.
For some reason he got scared when my husband walked near his tank and started swimming around frantically.
I came to look at him about 5 minutes later and he had wedged himself between the glass and some live rock.
It was a very small space and he couldn't get free. So I moved things about and he swam out but was obviously in shock.
He is very skittish now, so I turned off lights and he is sitting on his favorite rock but facing downward.
<The sitting upside down is typical behavior for this fish.>
My concern is that while he was squeezing into that small space he acquired some scratches on his side.
I put some stress coat in the tank and now I'm trying to decide if he needs something more. Is Melafix okay to use?
<I would not use anything at this point.>
The tank contains live rock, anemones, crabs, and snails. The scratches are very minor, no blood or deep gouges, merely flesh wounds.
However this fish is my baby and I want to ensure that he is okay.
<Merely maintain excellent water quality and a good diet and your fish should heal up on his own.>
Thank you for your time and help.
<You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Volitans lionfish part 2 Hi Bob, I am sending you another email concerning my volitans lionfish. The lionfish died as I was writing the email below. In your response to this previous email you suggested that I get a book on fish disease. Unfortunately, I deleted your response because the fish had died and I did not think it mattered at that point. <All matters. Sorry to read of your loss> I accepted that I was just going to keep the two damsels since they have not been affected. The problem is that I would like to get another lionfish. Assuming that the previous fish died of either a bacterial or protozoan parasite, would you advise getting another lionfish, waiting a certain period of time? <The latter. Do wait a good few weeks.> I apologize for deleting your response, it was unfortunate that I did not email you until it was too late. Should I treat my tank? <No to treatment. Vacuum your gravel, clean your filter, pumps, wait> I have included my first email describing the initial problem. Lastly, pH is 8.3, Ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels are all 0 using Red Sea test kit. Thanks, Glenn <Generally very tough fishes. Please read through http://www.wetwebmedia.com/lions&rels.htm and the many FAQs beyond. Bob Fenner>

Scorpionfish eyes   2/25/14
Hello there,
I recently purchased an orange Scorpionfish. Getting him to eat was a bit of an adventure but with some tips on this website and from the lfs I've managed to get him eating a diet of Selco and garlic extreme dosed krill.
<Do expand this diet...>

I noticed the other day that his eyes were a bit less reflective than usual and getting cloudy. I know that some of these fish shed their outer cuticle so Im not sure if I have a problem or not? His left eye is the more predominant one with the right showing some cloudiness. I kept snakes for years and it looks an awful lot like he's "Shedding" to me. On the right
eye I can visibly see a portion of the cloudiness moving from side to side.
The left has a full raised "donut" on it and I m not seeing movement but you can see that the cloudiness itself is raised off of the eye. He constantly looks like he is in a state of molt anyway (his camouflage) so its difficult for me to tell if that's what is going on. Any help would me much appreciated!
Thank you!
<See WWM re eye issues of marine fishes...
Scroll down.
 Likely this clouding here is related to being recently moved... perhaps a net scratching the eyes:

Bob Fenner>

Re: Scorpionfish eyes   2/25/14
Thank you for the fast response! I am quite relieved! Now that you mention it, I moved him out of the quarantine tank only three days ago so I suspect your right.
Do you have any tips on diet? I have tried krill, squid, clam, silversides, Mysis, live Chromis, live drip acclimated mollies, and live ghost shrimp with him and the only things he will eat are the ghost shrimp and krill, he won't touch anything else, well… other than my hermit crabs, he does seem enjoy those. Any other foods I should be looking into?
<...? Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/fishes/FishInd1.htm
scroll down...>
Here are a few pictures of him. My phone doesn't take the greatest pictures, I apologize. Is there any chance you could tell me the exact species?
<Not one I've seen>
My best guess is a Scorpaenopsis macrochir, or a Scorpaenodes brasiliensis. Typically his eyes are very reflective and for lack of a better word "blank;" there is no visible anything, they're almost like an insect's eyes.
<... badly clouded over... I do hope yours recovers. Bob Fenner>

Sick Lion Thanks Bob. unfortunately the fish is not going to make it. Losing color, won't eat and very lethargic. already removed from main tank. fortunately all other specimens are doing quite well <<Rats! Well, do us all a favor, and wait till a/the "bitter end"... have seen these fishes pull through amazingly, after looking like "no hopesville". Bob Fenner>>

Spinning Lionfish Hello Bob :) My boyfriend bought some lionfish via the web and when they came -- one of the bags was deflated and the lionfish that came out looked weak and started floating upside down when it settled under a rock. To make matters worse, overnight -- it got stuck in the powerhead. We think it suffered from a little gash to its stomach, but it hasn't been looking too well. It just floats around now and spins with the water current at the top -- it really doesn't respond to anything. Looking up close, it IS still breathing. Basically, we just need to know what you think? Is it paralyzed? Should we try to feed it? Finally, should we try to put it out of its misery -- SO SAD!!! :( If so, what should we do. Thanks so much, Gina <I see from your next email this specimen perished shortly after... I would have advised euthanizing it by refrigeration/freezing... Sorry to hear of your loss... please refer this information back to your supplier to aid them in designing better shipping practices. Bob Fenner>
Re: No more spinning...
Dear Bob, Sad news...after I wrote my first e-mail, we found out the poor lionfish had died. So sorry to bother you about this -- but we're now worried about the other lionfish -- we have tried to feed him with frozen food...but he doesn't want to eat it -- how do we feed it to him? Thanks again, GINA <Never a bother. Please see the "Lionfishes", and "Feeding Feeders" areas and FAQs posted on the www.WetWebMedia.com site. Bob Fenner>

Lionfish trouble Hey Bob, I've run into some trouble with one of my new lionfish. It managed to get stuck in a power head some time during the night. I've moved it to the quarantine tank, it just floats at the top, upside down, with a visible rip just in front of its anal fin (if that's the right name). So, is it a goner, or is there something I can do for the little guy? Thanks for your help, David <Let's hope this one recovers... Lionfish species are known for being very tough and good healers. Yours may not feed for a while (many days), but don't give up hope. Bob Fenner>

Scorpionfishes: Lionfishes & Much More for Marine Aquariums
Diversity, Selection & Care

New eBook on Amazon: Available here
New Print Book on Create Space: Available here

by Robert (Bob) Fenner
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