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FAQs on Parasitic Marine Worm Diseases: Causative Mechanisms/Prevention

Related Articles: Marine Parasitic Disease, Parasitic Worms, Roundworms

Related FAQs: Fish Worm Diseases 1, Marine Worm Parasites 2Marine Worm Parasites 3, & FAQs on Marine Worm Parasites: Diagnosis/Symptomology, Cures That Don't Work, Cures That Do Work, Products/Manufacturers... Flukes/Trematodes, Tapeworms/Cestodes, Leeches/Hirudineans, "Other" Worms and Worm-Like Parasites... Paravortex/Black Spot Disease, Anthelminthics/Vermifuges... De-wormers (Piperazine, Praziquantel...) & FAQs, Yellow Tang Disease, Parasitic Disease 2, Parasitic Disease 3, Parasitic Marine Tanks, Parasitic Reef Tanks, Cryptocaryoniasis, Marine Ich, Marine Velvet Disease Biological Cleaners, Treating Parasitic Disease, Using Hyposalinity to Treat Parasitic Disease, RoundwormsYellow Tangs, Tang Health/Disease

Many "thinning" syndromes, anomalous losses can be traced to the debilitating effects of worm parasites, external and internal.

What can be done then to prevent or exclude these parasites? Prophylactic treatment mostly... in the quarantine/acclimation process...

Re: was UV/skimmer, now Tang parasite...  3/6/07 Bob et al., Well, some small progress on the BGA situation.  It seems to be slowing down.  Friday it was going through one of it's let-go-and-float-to-the-surface phases, so I picked as much out as I could.  It seemed to be more cohesive and pick able than usual.  It has been regrowing slower than usual since.  So the UV and/or the water changes with homemade RO/DI water may be helping slowly. <Yes, likely>   Another siphon attack and water change tonight and see what happens. The new problem of the day is that I am concerned about my yellow tang. I added a yellow tang and a baby purple tang about 6 weeks ago.   <Mmmmm> They had been in quarantine after purchase, and did develop ich.  I treated with hyposalinity (1.009) first, <For how long? Tangs don't like reduced salinity...> that didn't work and the next wave of the parasites was pretty bad. I ended up treating with copper <Nor much copper exposure> and the ich resolved and they both were symptom free for 4 weeks before going in the display tank.  The yellow tang had gotten pretty thin, as he did not eat well in QT, the little purple was a pig and seemed to always beat him to the food, and I tried to be conservative about the feeding, as the tank was small and so quickly polluted. <Good> I assumed he was thin because he was too stressed to eat much.   <Yes, likely so> He was not thin when I purchased him, but lost weight during the quarantine.   So right after adding him to the main tank, I noticed an apparent cyst in his muscle just below his dorsal fin, on the left side.  It was not visible in QT with normal lighting, but only under the reef lights.  You can only really see it as a shadow when the light comes through him. You can't see it from the right side.  It is about halfway between the skin and the bones on the left side about 1/4" below dorsal fin.  There is no visible skin lesion, but if the light hits it just right, an opaqueness in that spot, about the size of a sesame seed. I did not worry too much about this, as he seemed fine, and it could have been some scar tissue or something.  He began eating well right away, and his behaviour has been very normal.  He has the typical night-time color change with a dark spot and a white stripe when the lights go out.  He is not quite as aggressive as the others at feeding time, but seems to be eating well.  He does not show any interest in the Nori, so he only eats when I feed flakes or frozen, but I worry he is not grazing enough. Their new favorite food is Formula 2 with garlic.  They all seem to love it. He is still thin, and I am worried that this cyst is a tapeworm or nematode.  His guts do have a lumpy kind of appearance, and he could have worms of some sort.  But this could just be the normal intestinal appearance that is visible because he is so thin. I have not seen any abnormal protrusions or worm-like excrement.  I have tried to get a picture, but he is not cooperating with that of course.  If I don't have a camera he poses very nicely right in front of me.  All the other fish are fat, and he is not gaining weight.  He is not losing more weight, he is just not improving.   In reading all I could find here on cysts and intestinal parasites, it seems there are not a lot of answers without a positive ID on a parasite. <Not possible w/o necropsy... microscopic examination> I found a few with identical descriptions but no one knows what to do because of unclear identification.  I can't find any similar pictures or descriptions on the external links.  And I have not seen this particular intra-muscular cyst described in any of my books.  It seems it would be impossible to ID without a biopsy anyway. <Yes> The purple tang who was quarantined with him is doing great.  He is fat and growing.  I will need a bigger tank soon if he keeps it up.  He had some stress lines on his face after QT, but he is beautiful now. <Good> Should I try to get the yellow tang out and put him back in quarantine? <I would not. I'd leave in the main display... and hope for the best> I don't want to infect the whole tank if it is something that doesn't need an exotic intermediate host. <Not likely to spread>   I don't want to overreact since he doesn't seem ill.  I am just getting more concerned because he is still so thin, and the other references to this mysterious cyst involve fish who expired suddenly.  The only choices I see are to quarantine and treat as worms and try to get his intestines cleared out and feed him without competition for a while -or- leave it alone and watch to make sure he does not go down hill.  He is so thin I just worry that he doesn't have much reserve for additional stress.  He seems fine otherwise.  Fins are good, behavior seems very normal.  Even in quarantine, I wouldn't know what to do about the cyst.  It is deep in the muscle, so would be unaffected by fresh water dip.  Without an ID it seems futile to throw medications at it. <There are purposeful anthelminthics... covered on WWM... that one could try...> Some of your writings suggest that these parasites may not be a problem if the other stresses are low, so may not be a plague if the other fish are healthy? <Yes> Very much enjoying reading "Reef Invertebrates"! Thanks so much! Your website is so addictive.   <Methinks you may be coming up to being a responder...> I am wondering how I survived 12 years of fish-keeping without it! (or how my fish survived anyway! :-)) Seriously, it is great to have somewhere to go for current and trustworthy answers. Alex Miller 75 gal, Instant Ocean, Aqua-C Remora, Emperor 400 filter, 9 W UV sterilizer, too-small refugium/sump, 2 powerheads, Coralife Deluxe PC 4x96W.   Aragonite substrate, plenum, live rock. Fish: Sailfin Tang, Purple Tang, Yellow Tang (LFS convinced me 3 different tangs would work, but am expecting to have to get a bigger tank soon - <Good... Zebrasomas can become real tussles at times... stress levels escalating respectively> I really wanted the purple tang, already had the Sailfin, the yellow was to make it an odd number), maroon clownfish, watchman goby, yellow-tail damsel, flame angel.   Inverts: emerald crab, Lysmata cleaner shrimp, pistol shrimp, a few hermits, a few snails. Corals: Xenia (going crazy), Euphyllia, mushroom polyps, Zoanthids. pH 8.2, NH3 = 0, NO2 = 0, NO3 = 0, P = 0, Ca = 360, KH = 8, temp = 75 F, SG = 1.025 <If it were me, mine, I would not medicate here... Bob Fenner>

Re: was UV/skimmer, now Tang parasite... and new WWM Crew member! - 03/06/07 Thanks Bob! <Welcome Alex> I agree, the yellow tang is probably better off in the main tank. Watching him more closely last night and this morning, I think the appearance of his abdomen is only due to his thinness and it even seemed slightly better.  I tried again to get pictures, but cannot get any of it to show up in a photo.  I will keep trying to get him to eat more. He is just not as good at grabbing the food as the others, so I will try to sneak him extra while the others are distracted.  Hopefully this cyst will not develop into something more sinister. <Mmm, not likely>   I will keep an eye on it.  Stressing him further right now does not seem indicated. <Agreed... that this may be embedded Metacercariae for instance... would it help the host to have them die, dissolve? How might this organisms complex life cycle be completed w/o a requisite predator consuming it? Perhaps this is simply a "twisted muscle" sort of injury/growth...> I will work on convincing my husband that we need a bigger tank! <Ahh!> Wow, your comment "<Methinks you may be coming up to being a responder...>" is very nice!  Weird, actually, as I was thinking the same thing last night. You read my mind. <!>   I begin to wonder if I might have some value to add here at some point.  My background is somewhat eclectic.  I am certainly not an expert, but I have learned from mistakes and struggled with and overcome a lot of the standard problems over the years. I understand the basic mechanical, chemical, and biological processes.  My weakness is probably in pathology and taxonomy.  I am a mechanical engineer, so could address pumps/head/flows/siphons/gravity, etc. <We have plenty of these... all are encouraged not to answer anything they're not comfortable with> I have done my fair share of DIY projects, and am pretty handy with plumbing in general.  I have not had a full-blown reef yet, but grew up with freshwater fish, and have had a FOWLR for a decade, moving toward a reef in the last couple of years. So I have seen the evolution in the best-practices and have tried to keep up.  I had a short stint cleaning tanks as a part-time helper at an LFS, and have seen local businesses come and go.  I appreciate their challenges, and the challenges of hobbyists who get varying advice from their LFS.  I like to keep it simple, and do appreciate your emphasis on natural sustainable approaches.  I also am picky about spelling and proper English, <Heeee! Yay!> and appreciate your efforts on this front. I would be glad to proofread anytime.  I am also a diver (I am the one floating upside down looking under things to see the details that everyone else swims right by), although haven't been able to go in a couple of years. I am a life-long aquarist, captured by the challenge, the beauty, and the serenity (in-between crises) offered by our own little piece of the reef.   <All good traits, experiences... It is obvious you have good command of the written word, a positive approach, are desirous of aiding others...> So, I will keep reading for now, and maybe I can help out one day.   Thanks!! Alex <Mmm, please do make it known when you have the sensation that you have suitable/sufficient "free time" for joining us. BobF>

Re: was UV/skimmer, now Tang parasite... and new WWM Crew member! - 03/06/07 Hi Bob, <Alex> Yes, on further reading I see that you have a wide range of experience levels and backgrounds making up the crew.  I would indeed like to help if you are in need of more responders!  I do enjoy sharing/communicating and can continue to learn on the job.  It would be an honor to be part of your team. <Ahh!> It sounds like the responding is done through your webmail system, <Yes> but I should probably set up another personal email for contact, <Please do send this along> since this is my work email (although it is certainly the quickest way to reach me for now - we have no access to webmail at work due to virus threats & productivity issues). Actually, my blackberry email may be the best backup for contacting me directly (copied above). <But hard to respond on... is this an address/system you would like to use just the same?> But if most of the communication is handled through logging into your site, then that may not be necessary.  I will be available in the evenings and weekends, as I do work days.  Let me know what I do next. <Respond to the last question, or make it known how we can reach you... You are welcome to have an address... Alex@WetWebMedia.com if you'd like. But the mail does come/go through a webmail svc.> Oh, and I am 99% sure that the cyst on the Z. flavescens is a Metacercariae.  I may have lost my appetite for sushi for a few days after reading up on that.  Yikes! <Mmm, yes... Anisakine ("Green" "Herring") worms are not my faves... I do like the sushi bar experience, but find myself "candling" fish flesh more and more as the years go by> He seems even better tonight, and I think he will be fine.  He is just still recovering from the QT stress and is not as piggy as the others and needs more food and time. Thanks! Alex <BobF>

Naso Tangs Hello Bob, <Hello Sanjay> I'm unsure if you remember, but approx 3 months ago I wrote to you regarding Naso tangs and intestinal worms. My plan was to investigate intestinal worms in Naso tangs as a reason for their decline in captivity. <Interesting possibility> I purchased a healthy six inch Naso and introduced it to my QT system.  It settled in well and after a week or so I began my experiment.   To half a cube of frozen food I added approx 20mg of an anti-thelmic preparation called Mebendazole.  I obtained the liquid form which sticks to frozen food. I fed this twice a day for two days without any ill effects to the Naso.  However I did not see any worms. <Have you taken a look to and through the scientific literature on issues involving such worms and Surgeonfishes?> On the third day, hey presto, hundreds of tiny round worms (confirmed by the local vet) about 1 cm in length.  Nasty looking organisms might I add. <Have any pix?> The QT tank had a little live rock, which proved to be a great mistake.  Many worms sought refuge in this rock.  At the same time the anti-thelmic agent seemed to dislodge the worms, but did not kill them.  I tried to remove as many as I could.   The tang re-ingested the worms and began to decline in the same manner as my previous Naso did in my main system. The Naso became increasingly thin over a few days. Eventually the tang died from what I suspect to be an over load of worms. I decided to discard the live rock, but as I was about to do so, I spotted a very large round worm about half an inch thick and six inches in length. My conclusion from the above may provide a reason for why Naso tangs decline for no apparent reason in captivity. <One hypothesis... how will or might you go about devising experiments to prove, disprove it?> I am not repeating this exercise as I do not want to be responsible for another Naso death. However I believe that importers of these beautiful creatures may find my studies interesting and take on the responsibility of de-worming these fish before they are passed on to retailers, (in an  Ideal world). <... better to have a larger sample size... and more "cures" folks can attempt> I also conclude that those who read this post and decide to de-worm a fish in QT,  must do so with either a more effective anti-thelmic drug or a greater concentration of Mebendazole.  Ensuring the tank is devoid of live rock is also essential. <Okay> Hope this has been of interest to you, thanks in advance for taking an interest. Regards Sanjay Patel <And thank you for writing. Bob Fenner>

- Parasite Problems - Hello guys/gals I have a problem with one of my tanks and wanted to see if you guys could help me. I have a 75 gallon tank in the garage with about 80 lbs of live rock with a blue dot puffer, a clown trigger and a Hawkfish that is my holding tank until my 375 gets in. Well everybody was doing fine for the longest time then about a month ago I noticed that my blue dot puffer was getting very skinny but he would still eat a lot therefore I went from feeding every other day like I've always done to feeding every day even though the other 2 guys were very fat. Well even with me feeding every day the puffer kept getting skinnier and skinnier until he died a few days ago and now my Clown Trigger is starting to look skinny. Is there some sort of disease or parasite that could cause this or am I just not feeding them enough. <Yes, I'm afraid so... nematodes and Cestodes are the most common culprit - like tapeworms, they can out-compete for nutrients.> I had the blue dot puffer for over a year and he was a nice size for the longest time. I feed them all sorts of stuff such as Mysis Shrimp, Blood Worms and Squid. Thanks for your help. <Do try to get a hold of some Fenbendazole from your local veterinarian. Your best bet is to put this fish in quarantine for about three weeks and treat the quarantine tank directly with the Fenbendazole for that entire time. The Noga book of Fish Disease recommends 2mg/liter or 7.6mg/gallon of tank water. This should give your fish the upper hand against these parasites. Cheers, J -- >

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