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FAQs on Parasitic Marine Worm Diseases: Tapeworms/Cestodes

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, Etiology/Prevention, Cures That Don't Work, Cures That Do Work, Products/Manufacturers... Flukes/Trematodes, 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

Sudden Flame Angelfish Death - Questions About Parasitic Worms   11/18/11
Hello WWM Crew,
I wonder if I might ask your opinion about the very sudden death of a mature flame angelfish in my SPS aquarium.
First, some data about my system for your reference - 135 gal SPS which has been operating for about five years. Filtration consists of a Euro-Reef Skimmer (with daily skimmate production of about 1 dark cup) and an Eco-System 3616 mud refugium, loaded with live rock and Chaetomorpha. Flow in the main display is supplemented by four Vortech pumps, one of which flows directly over another mass of Chaeto. The aragonite sand bed is roughly 3/4 inch and the aquarium contains about 150 lbs of live rock.
Lighting is a mixture of HQIs, VHOs and LED.
Nitrate and Phosphate is undetectable, salinity and temperature are at 35 ppt and 81 F, respectively. A water change of about 15 gallons is performed about once a week.
I have had the same five fish for three to four years; in addition to the flame angel, the aquarium is home to a 4" purple tang, 5" emperor angelfish, 4" bicolor blenny and a 4" sunrise Pseudochromis.
Due to the refugium and the Chaeto in the display, there is a generally a supply of various copepods and tiny brittle stars for foraging by the fish, especially in the morning when the lights first come on. They also tend to graze on the Chaeto, and some other green macroalgae in the tank (I can't quite identify). Supplemental feeding has mainly been large freshwater mysis shrimp, soaked in Selcon.
Generally speaking, the system has been stable and all life thriving (of course, now with the exception of the subject of this email) for years.
Thanks in part to the strict quarantine regimen (learned from your web site - thank you) I have never had any health issues with these fish once in the display, except for one noteworthy exception. About t six months ago I noticed a stringy white discharge from the Emperor, which in hindsight may have been the first indication of an infestation of some type of parasite.
Because the Emperor (and all the other fish) were plump, active and displayed a very healthy appetite and vibrant color, I did not take any significant remedial action at that time and the symptoms dissipated.
Last night, all fish appeared healthy and had good appetites.
This morning, sadly, I discovered the flame which had died over the evening. Upon removal from the display, I noticed a lesion which did not look like the normal deterioration one might expect under the circumstance.
Directly under the pectoral fin on one side was a discharge which to my novice eye looked like a worm or some other type of parasite (see attached photos). I pulled the discharge with a pair of tweezers and took a couple of additional pictures for reference/information.
My main concern now is to try to identify the cause of death and treat as required to protect the remaining fish. Would you kindly advise if you concur that this is an infestation of some kind of worm?
<Yes; I do concur this is the remnants of a worm, a Tape/Cestode very likely. It's origin? Likely was imported in/with the Angel...>
If this is the case, I suspect treatment with some type of vermifuge is warranted,
<Mmm... killing all the other susceptible/worm life in your system? Not likely useful... not advised>
but due to the size of the fish a hospital tank may not be practicable.
<I'll jump ahead here (and haven't even finished my coffee) and state that I would NOT do this moving, treatment>
Conversely, treating in the main display may not be feasible due to the presence of the Sps, some soft corals and an assortment of crab and snails.
<Yes; agreed>
My other concern is that I may be able to successfully treat the fish in a hospital tank, only to have them re-infected once returned to the display.
Can you offer any advice that may lead me in the right direction?
<Many such endo-parasites are species specific, most have complex life cycles that aren't fulfilled in captivity...>
Thanks in advance for your reply.
<I would just continue w/ your system, livestock as you state. IF concerned re further such parasitic involvements, consider adding the vermifuge/Anthelminthic treatment as part of your quarantine process. Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Parasitic worms I need some help!  My Hawaiian Dragon Eel stopped eating.   I notice that he has thin, tan worms all over his body.   The worms are about an inch in size.  The part that doesn't hook into the eel ends in a point.   Please tell me what I can do to treat this.  I know eels are sensitive to many forms of treatment.  He is a full size eel.  Thanks so much for any advice you can give.  Kelly <Mmm, need to have a definitive identification of these worms... to the phylum level. I suspect they're flukes of some sort, and could be treated with an organophosphate. I suggest a pH-adjusted freshwater dip (that will likely result in a bunch "letting go" for microscopic exam.) at this point. Be careful with netting the specimen and keep the dip tank covered and heavily aerated during this procedure. The dip by itself will not effect a cure... as the worms are likely of a type that have direct development and will still be present in various stages in the main tank when/if you return the eel. Bob Fenner>

Re: Parasitic worms Hi Bob, <Hi Kelly> Thanks for your response. I did do the freshwater dip.  It took 18 minutes for the leeches to let go. (not die, just let go).  Yes, I did say leeches.  I took some of the specimens to an aquarium today.  I was told that they were leeches. <Easy to see with some magnification (and specimens!)>   Unfortunately, these leeches like to live in the substrate.  I had 200 pounds of sand and crushed coral in my tank.  Well, with some help, I actually removed all the substrate and bought more live rock.  The substrate is totally infected with these leeches.  Just looking at them makes my skin crawl.  I am treating the substrate with Clout in a separate container. <This should "do it"> There are no more of these leeches visible in the tank.  Although, he does have two of the leeches on him.  Compared to the hundred that were all over him yesterday, I consider this a huge accomplishment. Once the eel settles down and does not appear so stressed, I will try to pick off the two remaining leeches.  This has been a very long project, but is well worth the effort to save this beautiful eel. <Yes> We have a Titan trigger fish with the eel.  She was sick in the past and had to be quarantined.  We now think she was being infected by the leeches as well. Since last night when we gave the eel a freshwater dip, the Titan has been extremely protective of the eel.  She lies right beside him.  If I am working in the tank near to the eel, she goes completely ballistic.  I have to say a full size Titan trigger and full size Hawaiian dragon eel are a nice match.  Although, I would not add anything else with them. Take care Bob. Kelly <Thank you for the progress report. Bob Fenner>

Tape worms Hello Guys; In the past 1 1/2 weeks, my Purple Tang has passed 2 or 3 (2 1/2") long, clear "worms' that are about the thickness of 1/64". Under magnification, they appear to have a half circle head (like a round head screw). At first I was not concerned, but I noticed that during and after the last one was passed, the tang was not behaving normally. It would repeatedly swim into the flow of a power head then dive to the other end of the tank again and again. I have had the fish for 3 years and it is very healthy, good color, etc. I also noticed that its fins were not fully extended but not clamped either. The two Ocellaris Clowns and the Orchid Dottyback look fine. I was thinking of treating with garlic. Your thoughts please? <Wouldn't hurt... but don't promote its use as a treatment either> I have 3 tanks and like feeding frozen foods. Is there a way I can prevent the spreading of parasites from tank to tank via my hand or the food i.e. will normal washing between tanks work and should I cut the cube food into pieces or just rinse it in cold water between tanks? <Best not to "wet" the feeding gear or ones hands in-between systems> I do not want to transfer Ick, worms, etc. Is it safe to dip my hands into either Permanganate or formaldehyde solutions? Thank you, Tim <Not necessary or advisable to use these... one will stain, the other is a biocide (kills all life). All considered, more important to do ones best on all fronts per here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/mardisease.htm and learn to not worry about these extreme aspects of vector control. Bob Fenner>

Re: Tang Scratching Normal? >Thanks for the reply Marina, after much searching I'm coming to the conclusion that these spots were some type of nematode don't know if they were what caused the demise. After looking at it a bit more I can see them causing the scratching but they weren't around the gills or any critical portion of the fish. Just sitting under the skin. >>You're quite welcome, even though I'm sorry I have provided little/no help.  I did forward your email to some others (as noted), and I spent a good 45 minutes this morning doing some searching, but everything I found indicated that one would have some other external symptoms, not just the creatures you observed subcutaneous.  In one of the links I found, they did note, however, that with trematodes (can't recollect which ones right now) copper wouldn't garner results, I believe they did outline what would help, though.  I'd consider q/t'ing the others ASAP and treating.  Good luck!  Marina <Curiosity begs the question: have you any training (biology or medical, perhaps) that has given you access/skills in performing a post-mortem?  The vast majority of hobbyists don't have tools/equipment for such a procedure.> Other than some biology classes years ago in college not really.  I've been an avid fisherman and fish keeper most of my life so kinda know what's supposed to be there and what's not. Post-mortem was done with some Exacto knives and a 30x microscope from Radio Shack that I keep around to check out small life forms in the tank. Thanks Paul
Re: Tang Scratching Normal?
>Hey again, >>Good morning, Paul. As you see above, I'm sending this to some others on "The Crew". >Thanks for the info this is just an update not a very happy one but am on a fact finding mission. Found the hippo this morning dead in his favorite hidey hole.  >>That was a rather quick demise. What a shame. >While performing an autopsy found small black worm like organisms under his skin. There is no visible head or tail just a skinny worm all coiled up. (can't get a picture as they are too small for naked eye) I know this isn't much info for an ID but was just wondering if anyone would care to make a guess on this. (am worried for the other fish in the tank.)  >>I would worry as well. I personally am not familiar at all with this, clearly one would have to guess parasitic infection of some sort. I own one book one fish diseases, not-so-handily stored away. I'm going to kick this to Bob (or anyone else willing) and see what they think. I've never experienced anything like this. Curiosity begs the question: have you any training (biology or medical, perhaps) that has given you access/skills in performing a post-mortem? The vast majority of hobbyists don't have tools/equipment for such a procedure. >There were no external signs (other than scratching) before he expired, eating, breathing, swimming normal. >>Yes, I remember. This is, at this point, quite puzzling. I'm sorry, and am also concerned for the rest of your residents. I'm going to suggest trying some other sites as well, http://www.reefs.org (the archives, library, and forums), http://www.thereeftank.com IIRC there are some folks with scientific backgrounds who frequent these places. One gentleman by the nick of Galleon is one such who comes to mind. (He knows me as Seamaiden should you find him.) I'm in the process of searching via Google, I've found this initial link-->  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/parasiti.htm http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/FA033  And some others that may (or may not be) helpful. http://www.petlibrary.com/marinetrematodes.htm http://www.wonbrothers.com/product/DrAqua/parasitic_diseases.htm http://www.mysteries-megasite.com/main/bigsearch/parasites.html Best of luck to you! Marina >Thanks again, Paul >P.S. There is a utility out on the web called REEFCON http://www.infinitysoft.net/ReefCon/ that is GREAT for logging and keeping track of your tank. It also has a very nice reference section with pictures and some info on keeping for a ton of critters. Will also control X-10 equip if you have it. I suggest this to all my friends who keep tanks as there is a free version and the pro version ($19.00 for one version or $32 for current and all upgrades) cheap in my book. >>Thank you, we'll pass this on! >>Folks, I am entirely unfamiliar with what this man has described in his post-mortem on his Hippocampus. Anyone who has any ideas, or is familiar. ANYTHING, please weigh in with your opinion. I'm having little luck finding information on anything but the most common maladies one may experience with their specimens. Could we be talking about Monogenean trematodes (flukes) of some sort? Thanks, Marina<< <A distinct possibility. Is there someone you can borrow a 30 or higher microscope (dissection type preferably) to give you/us an idea of the gross morphology of these worms? Bob Fenner>

Re: Tang Scratching Normal? I may be able to go to the local Community College and borrow a microscope for an hour or so, if not have some friends that work at a hospital and will see if I can sneak in there with a sample. *grin* Will see about that in the next few days and see if I can get a picture. <Good. If you can, bring a single edged razorblade (or scalpel) to make a cross section near the head end (a tri-radiate esophagus is indicative of nematodes for instance)> (have frozen the fish we'll see how well the samples kept) All other fish in the tank still looking good. Once again the dots look like a black ropey worm all coiled up in a clear membrane. After opening the membrane the animal that comes out is about 1-2mm long and looks kinda like a very skinny black earthworm. Thanks Paul <Likely Cestodes (tapeworms), but we'll see. Bob Fenner>

Re: Tang Scratching Normal? Hello again, Well just got back some info from an instructor at the local CC where I sent the sample with a friend.  Good call Bob he said that it was some kind of tapeworm but didn't know the exact species and that he didn't think that they would have caused the death of my fish. <Maybe a contributor to some extent> So I guess this is one of those that I'm just going to have to chalk up to experience and make sure that the wife doesn't buy me any more fish presents *grin*.  Thanks for the help must say I'd have a lot harder time getting this tank started without your book and the web site. thanks again Paul <Glad to be of assistance> P.S. Just got Anthony's book in the mail and am looking forward to studying it so I can get planning on my coral to add to this tank and am waiting for the new book to arrive. <Know you will enjoy, benefit by them. Bob Fenner>

- Wasting Disease - <Hello, JasonC here...> Hi crew, have a problem I haven't been able to find much on. Have a Sebae clown, wild caught, about 4 years old; always been in perfect health. Recently, I moved him to a larger tank, fish with some inverts, no anemones (yet). About 2 weeks later he developed Popeye, one eye, which I successfully treated with Epsom (thanks!). He still has a good appetite, even still has that pearly iridescence around the white bands that fresh-caught clowns have, BUT, he is beginning to lose mass; first, developing the typical pinched forehead, now progressing rearward both above and below the lateral line; no other clowns in the tank, other specimens unaffected. He eats and comes out less but is otherwise still pretty normal. <So you do see the fish eating... it would seem to me with the other occupants, this fish might be getting less that its fill.> His offered diet hasn't changed, if anything is better because I am feeding a large French and Atlantic blue tang, and very wary of HLLE, so they eat better than I do. My past experience is that this guy is headed for checkout, but its been a while, and if there is anything I can do I want to do it, so, suggestions? <Well, isolation might help - make sure the fish is eating well and without competition from the larger fish. Also, because this is a wild fish, it is also more likely that it has an internal parasite (or two) that are competing for the same nutrients, quite possibly nematodes or Cestodes [tapeworms]. Both can be treated - you should be able to obtain Praziquantel [for the Cestodes] and/or Fenbendazole [for the nematodes] from your local veterinarian. I would work with one of these at a time, and administer in baths for 2-3 hours. More information on these treatments can be found in the Edward Noga book, Fish Disease, which while expensive is very complete... and an eye-full.> Thanks, Steve J. <Cheers, J -- >

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