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FAQs about Filefish Disease/Health

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Related FAQs: Filefishes, Filefish Identification, Filefish Behavior, Filefish Compatibility, Filefish Selection, Filefish Systems, Filefish Feeding, Filefish Reproduction, Filefishes eating Aiptasia

Unknown file species. Pic by friend Phil Sokol in Raja Ampat.

Tassel File fish, hlth., env.   9/29/08 Dear WWM Crew <Raul> I have had my Tassel fish for over a year now and all has been well. The fish feeds on various flakes <Must be small> as well as frozen shrimp of various kinds plus lettuce! <I urge caution with such... more pollution than anything> He shares a 28 inch cube tank <Much too small> with a fox-face, Picasso trigger, yellow tang, blue tang and a blue angel, <... What?> all roughly the same size. He has never been bullied by any of these. After returning from a ten day vacation I find that the left eye of the Tassel fish is cloudy and that he is not eating well. I must admit that I was shocked to find that ph levels were down to 7.4 <!> and that nitrates and phosphates are high. Given the above information, do you think this ailment could be a bacterial infection or due to poor water quality? <The latter directly, others in-> During my vacation he was not given any lettuce which he has received daily since his purchase. Might it be a lack of vitamins? <... this system... is too small for what livestock you list...> I have also noted that his 'tassels' are missing!! I see no evidence of bullying (I did have a Tomato clown that bullied others but had him removed over two months ago). Your advice will be most appreciated. Kind regards Raul Yuste <Past time for a much larger volume... Bob Fenner>

Prickly leatherjacket and copper Hello Robert........again, last week I had occasion to use copper in one of my tanks as on close inspection of the occupants one night I noticed a fine covering of spots on most of them brought in I think on an unquarantined box [still not learned after twenty years]) <Still happens to me after more than thirty, sigh> any way I treated the tank with my home made copper remedy which is basically just copper sulphate dissolved in tapwater. (i know you don't approve). <Add about ten percent citric acid... this is what many Public Aquariums (just) do... with pentahydrate CuSO4 and "clean" water...> To cut an already too long story short by the time I got home from work all spots were gone and the residents an Asfur, Blueface, Bluering, Red Sea Raccoon, Boxfish, two Common Clowns and a Royal Gramma were all back on form and as fit as butchers dogs except a Prickly Leatherjacket that I found dead it was perfectly alright the night before and had a good feed so my question is are these fish susceptible to copper treatments the dose was pitched about right and the Angels are fine so sir what is your opinion......with thanks again Graham Hannan <Hmm, good question... I would rate the family (Filefishes) about a bit left to "medium" in their (Monacanthidae) copper sensitivity overall... not "that" sensitive... perhaps this individuals health was impugned already? Bob Fenner>

Redtail filefish in distress  6/2/03 Dear Bob or Anthony: <cheers, Connie> I hate to be such a pest, but have found new homes for a couple of my more aggressive fish.  I have 2 clowns and a pygmy arrowhead wrasse in a 60 gallon FOWLR and DSB tank.  I have been waiting for a valentini mimic filefish, but in the meantime I ordered Pervagor melanocephalus, a red tailed small filefish.   <interesting fishes... but never have been a fave of mine for their aggression, sometimes large adult sizes, or very challenging diets. Indeed, there are a few hardy specimens in the trade. Most are not though> What arrived is a large sort of brown striped with yellow tail, some yellow in the body but shaped like the Pervagor.  He is from Hawaii, has no Latin name in Foster & Smith catalogue and none on the shipping papers.  He's pretty big, is already 4" although they said they would send me a 2" fish. He seems very gentle and eats well. <its very important to ID this species to discover its adult size (some are over a foot long!) and what it eats (many are obligate corallivores that will take aquarium foods but still die of dietary deficiencies). When in doubt, seek Fishbase.org  Just type in "filefish" in the field for common names and then browse the links and photos> I guess this is a two part question.  Number one, would valentini mimic file fish get along with the red tailed Pervagor in the same 60 gallon tank, <not recommended> number two, do you know what this other fish is.  He is shaped like a Pervagor, sort of, and has the same type of tail.  My main concern here is size, secondarily, color.  I checked your file fish website and couldn't identify him  There was another filefish from Hawai'i listed as the same type but his stripes were more like dots, otherwise he would be a fairly close match. <indeed... there are many like species. I took a peek on Fishbase and glimpsed a few tens of species listed> Thank you both for your time, and Bob, how I envy you.  I fell in love with Hawai'i a couple of years ago and we are returning in December, <way cool> need to check out the Big Island to move to, if project manager husband can get job in construction there or somewhere. <plenty of construction projects on the Big Island I hear ;) > Aloha and Mahalo to the two most important fish men in my life. Connie <Mahalo, my friend. Anthony>

Re: Redtail filefish in distress >Dear Marina: >>Good morning, Connie.  Tell me you haven't lost the fish! >Thank you so much for your help.   >>You're quite welcome, it's why we're all here. >We rushed out and bought a 35 gallon plastic tub and put all the appropriate hang=ons on it, then put the fish in.  He swam a bit and then fainted.  My husband shouted, "the fish is dead".  I thought I saw a slight change in position when I looked later, but after that he swam over to the PVC. My husband asked me if I had moved him, and I said no, so then we knew he was still alive but stressed.  This a.m. I couldn't see him anywhere, peeked into the PVC's and couldn't find him, then figured he was in some artificial foliage I had put in there for hiding purposes, and after several hours I figured he was dead, so I emailed the vendor to notify him of the death of this fish.  About an hour later I saw him swimming around.  I must tell you this has been a cliff-hanger, and I'm sure he'd be dead by now if you hadn't responded in a timely fashion.  THANK YOU SO MUCH.  THIS IS SUCH FUN!!!! >>LOL!  And talk about SUSPENSE!  Holy canoli, Batman, I think this fish is gonna live.  He may have been a little disoriented, he's been in all these clear containers for the past few weeks, maybe even couple of months, and then he gets plopped into this place where he got some privacy.  So he's not stressing over the space issue now, yeah?  I forgot to suggest making Selcon (or similar good quality supplement) a regular part of his diet--soak foods in it a few times a week, this is good for most all fishes.  Best of luck!  Marina

When Bad Things Happen To A Good Hobbyist... Crew: <Scott F. here today> Below is a resend of an email 2 days ago that must've gotten lost. <I'm afraid that this one slipped through the cracks...We're sorry that we're too late...> Sad follow-up afterwards: Crew: I am a huge fan and avid reader of your most informative sight.  I own the CMA, BOCP and the brand new super deluxe RI.  I have attached a picture of my Mimic Filefish (Paraluteres prionurus).  Quick review: 55gal All-Glass (10 months), 130W PC, 39lbs LR, 4" DSB, BakPak2, 2 powerheads, 2x weekly 5%water changes, various frozen & dry foods (no heater this time of year in NJ).  My lights came on about 1/2 hour before this picture was taken.  In my limited experience with this fish (54 days - 27/27 in display/qt - size is about 2-3"), he seems to sleep like this, attaching his mouth to something (here it is fake coral skeleton) and letting his body drift.  However, up until today, he was always "up" and ready when the lights came on. Now, on to "what I have done": Over the last couple of weeks, my tank has been running a little hot, 82-86.  Since my house doesn't reach higher than 82, I thought my 130W PC's were adding a few degrees.  So, I tried shortening the day cycle from 12 hours to about 8.  Okay, so maybe for a few days I was zipping my timer forward so it wasn't technically "on a timer", nor was it exactly 8 hours.  Now, I figure, the fish is breathing, maybe I have confused his cycle.  I fed the him some frozen Mysis (his favorite) and he just let it go by.  I nudged him off this branch to remind him that is day time.  I did this because also about 2 weeks ago, before "lights out", he got his mouth stuck in my skimmer's pump when I had the surface trap off, and I had to gently pull him off, so I wanted to make sure he wasn't stuck again (his "lips" were puffy for awhile, like he had collagen injections!) Anyway, he swam around a bit and I was happy about it.  Then he ducked under some hanging algae, so I thought maybe he wasn't ready to be awake.  Now, a few hours after the incident, he is hiding between 2 LR's, seemingly back to "sleep mode".  Water tests 1/2 hour after lights on: Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 2.5, pH 8.0.  Is this anything other than messing his schedule up, even though lights are on a few hours now and it is the middle of the day? <Well, he may have suffered some trauma to his mouthparts...With specialized feeders, such as certain tangs and butterflies, this can spell disaster...It may also hold true for filefish...> Also, can it be my paltry 130W PC's are adding the heat I mentioned? Thanks, Rich Follow-up: I am filled with extreme sadness at the loss of this magnificent fish :(. He was very friendly, even letting you pet him! <That was pretty cool, I'll bet!> I understand that sometimes fish just die inexplicably, but I cannot help but think it was my fault based on the above information. <Not your fault, Rich- just an unfortunate accident...Could have happened in any tank> After reading way too much information on your site, I am hesitant to make a move unless it is something I recognize that has been handled in my readings. <It's always better to "look before you leap" with marine fish husbandry! I agree that your cautious approach is correct, and will pay dividends down the line!> I have read before about "then I put this in, then I threw ice cubes, then I freshwater dipped my inverts, then I yelled at my wife, now what do I do?", so I did not want to make any rash moves. <Hey- that sounds a lot like one of the standard procedures that we recommend...LOL> It made sense that I threw off his cycle based on what I saw were he sleeping habits. <Well, the disruption of the fish's daily cycle could have been a source of stress, but I am more convinced that the potential injury that the fish incurred as a result of the skimmer incident was the more likely cause. Maybe he recovered for a time, but the possible damage may have been a problem> Oh, man, my first piece of advice to people who get very attached to their wet pets is DO NOT GIVE THEM NAMES!!  It makes it so much more personal when you lose "Blackie", as opposed to a Mimic Filefish. <It does, but a compassionate aquarist like you is the best friend a captive fish has...it's okay to get attached to an animal!> Anyway, thanks for reading and helping in so many ways.  I hope the sadness goes away with time.  Rich <I'm really sorry for your loss, Rich. Don't let this unfortunate experience discourage you from future aquaristic endeavors. With your diligent husbandry, enthusiasm, and obvious compassion, success is a given in the future! Hang in there...Chin up! Regards, Scott F.>

Formalin & Orangespot Filefish <Hi, MikeD here> I have a few questions about a couple of subject matters.  The first concerns formalin.<OK>  I live in California and can no longer find formalin for sale.<California's standards are stricter than many, and formalin is a known and proved carcinogen, or cancer causing agent>  I have heard two things.  The first is that it is illegal to sell here, and the other is that the pharmaceutical company that makes it is no longer in business.  What is the truth behind it?<Since there always was more than one company that manufactured it, I seriously doubt that THE company went out of business, unless of course "they" are referring to a California company, which is quite possible>  I depend on this medication to get rid of the various external parasites found on marine angels and butterflyfish before introducing them to my aquarium.  It is part of the reason I'm able to keep the Eight Banded Butterflyfish (Chaetodon octofasciatus) alive and eating well for a long time now.<I seriously doubt it's the formalin enabling you to keep the fish alive, but rather your husbandry and feeding regimens instead.>  How do I get a hold of it, or are there other safe alternatives to ridding fish of their parasites?<There are several other chemicals that are effective against external parasites, the choice of which is often dependent on what type of parasite it is to begin with> The other concerns the Orangespot filefish (Oxymonacanthus longirostris).  I have kept this fish before in a tank filled with thriving Acropora colonies.<That's highly commendable and a much greater length than many are willing to go in the attempt>   One day it mysteriously disappeared.<Which is usually the end met by most in captivity>  All my other fish at the time were healthy and still alive.  I believe I had a couple of Red Margin Fairy Wrasses (Cirrhilabrus rubrimarginatus), a Blue Tang (Paracanthurus hepatus), and a Golden Pygmy Angel (Centropyge aurantius).  I suspect the possibility of parasites killing this fish<No offense, but I think you've got a parasite fixation>, for it pecked at the corals all day long.<Meaning what?>  What's even weirder is that I have been seeing pictures of these fish fat as a pig in nature.  But my fish never got that friggin' big in the aquarium feeding off of Acropora colonies alone.<That's likely because it was never healthy and was lacking in a critical element in its diet it needed to survive.>  This to me seems contrary to what is being written everywhere in books magazines, as well as articles on the internet about them being exclusive corallivores.<OK, I'll agree a little with that statement.>  Is it possible they are just as undemanding in the variety of food they eat as other filefish, but are rather just shy behaviorally and very slow to adapt to rapid changes in diet and environments?<Possible, but that's not likely the entire explanation, with the real answer being that there's something in their wild diet you weren't able to meet, perhaps something as simple as not enough different species of corals. In the wild they're on the move all day long and probably include much in their diet in addition to the coral, which provides the bulk of it.>  I have read accounts from certain aquarists training this fish to regularly accept normal aquarium foods.<Me too and I'm always suspicious of these reports, with many people thinking 6 months or a year is "success" while in actuality it's just slow starvation.>  I've also noticed in pet stores and wholesale warehouses, that these fish peck at the sides of the glass and the bottom of the tank a lot.<Logical. they are starving to death and trying to find ANYTHING to help fill the gap.>  The pecking seems very deliberate.<It probably is, with their vision attuned to things we can't even see.>  What are they doing?<Eating>  Could the possibility of parasites I've seen commonly attached to angels and butterflies affect the health of these fish drastically to the point of no return?<By the hundreds? Not likely. I don't know you but you really do seem obsessed with parasites.>  Would it be proper to assume that if I tried a similar mini-reef Acropora set up in the distant future, to purchase the smallest juvenile filefish possible for the purposes of adaptability, much like butterflyfish?<Not a bad idea, but if I were to try it I'd add more than just Acropora, as nature rarely has anything found singly by species. I wouldn't be surprised to find that small anemones, cnidarians and such are also a vital part of their diet.>  Are these fish also commonly found in groups rather than singly in nature?<Actually, no. Adults have been found to go through a very elaborate pairing ritual, not unlike many of the other filefish.>  They seem to be very peaceful towards specimens of the same species.<Seem is a dangerous word. Indications are that males can be highly territorial and combative, another trait often found in other filefish.>  Could they possibly suffer from severe loneliness as Anthias do if they're kept alone?<Possible, but highly unlikely, as the family as a whole tends to regard each other with antagonism, particularly in the confines of an aquarium.>  Any well informed and current information about them would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you.<You have to keep several things in mind. Even with the best equipment available, humans can only spend a few hours underwater at any given time, thus any and all information, even based on wild animals, is at best extremely sketchy and 95% guesswork and assumption. To make matters worse, it's not possible to follow them into areas where they regularly travel as we are simply too large, with the final kicker being that the human eye, as you pointed out, may not be able to discern something that's blatantly visible to them. While I commend your dogged determination and the steps to which you are willing to go to solve the dilemma we currently face with the species, I'm forced to agree with the commonly accepted statement that, for now, a LOT more natural observation needs to be done before they are suitable as candidates for a home tank. With luck, the answer will be found before we wipe them out as a species, either by over collecting, or, more likely, the destruction of the entire reef ecosystem they need to survive. At present, the human race is the greatest single extinction factor since the asteroid/comet that likely eliminated the dinosaurs.> Philip

Formalin & orangespot filefish (continued) <Hi, Mike D again> Thank you for the info.  It was very informative.<You're very welcome, and I try as best I can.>  Although I may seem paranoid about parasite infestations, I assure you from the stores I get some of my fish there definitely is a reason to.<THAT I can believe>  Many of the pygmy angels and a good 98% of the butterflyfish I've ever purchased in any store down here come up with some sort of clear parasitic crustacean that feeds on the host fish.<This sounds like most or all of the local stores are getting their fish from a local "jobber", rather than purchasing from a good importer, not at all unusual.>   The only exception to this rule is usually when I purchase them from excellent and well noted mail order stores from out of state.  What exactly the creature is eating, whether blood or tissue is not clear.  But when they go undetected for some time, (a matter of a few days), the damage they do to their hosts becomes very evident.  Trust me, they're extremely difficult to detect to a novice aquarist.<It sounds like it. I live in Florida and catch my own aquarium fish on a regular basis, so this is not a common parasite.>  I didn't know about this until someone working at a pet store showed them to me.  Weird lesions and raised bumps begin to appear.  Then the fish seem to mysteriously die.  I have treated against these little monstrosities using freshwater baths, but they're too stressful for the fish, hence asking about formalin.<The formalin IS much quicker, although it's likely if your fish live for years, as mine do, that some unexplained deaths may be tumors, as formalin IS a known carcinogen.>  What the heck are they?<Honestly, they sound like some sort of a fluke.>  They're clear.  Round in shape.  Seem to have a very short tail.  And they have tiny round sucker like appendages for mouths, with no readily visible eyes and no antennae.  When they die, they flake off looking like dead fish scales.  On occasion I also see a tiny mottled crustacean on butterflyfish.  It looks like a grain of black pepper at first glance. Could you please try to identify that for me as well?<Both sound extremely difficult and may well be larval stages of an isopod, but without microscopic examination it would be impossible to tell. fish lice look something like a wood louse or "rolly polly" and are often easily removed with tweezers. For what you're describing, I'd suggest keep using the formalin and avoid buying fish from there whenever possible.>  Thank you Philip

Tassel Filefish I have a Tassel File which has been healthy and with me for about 1 1/2 years. It is about 8 inches from nose to tail, hand fed a variety of foods in an aggressive tank. He has done very well up until the past three days. I noticed what seemed to be some broken blood vessels, or bleeding under his skin, and a swollen mouth which is getting progressively worse. <Good observation, description> He is interested in eating, but can't. I was able to place one small piece of squid in his mouth yesterday which he ate, but today nothing. Again, he shows interest but can't or won't eat. Any suggestions? Wendy <Yes... check your water quality... execute a large water change in any event, lower your water temperature if it's in the high seventies F.... and add a vitamin/appetite stimulant to the water (e.g. Selcon)... Hopefully your fish will rally, heal on its own. Bob Fenner> 

Hurting Fish Hello WWM Crew, I have a 5-year-old 150-gallon reef tank. Yesterday I went to the LFS, where I purchased an anemone and several fish; (2) PJ's and (1) Banggai Cardinal, a Coral Beauty (approx 4"), and a Tasseled Filefish (approx 6") that I have been looking at for two weeks.  <A gorgeous animal> When the LFS received the anemone, it was attached to a rock. As it sold, they attempted to remove it again, <Mmm, better to buy with the rock...> but it still wanted to stay. I acquired a new rock. To transport everything home, they put the anemone in a salt bucket and the fish were bagged individually (the cardinals were together) and placed/floated in the bucket. <Okay> I arrived home with the bags intact, but the Angel and Filefish were not swimming around. Both were swimming and interacting, eating, appeared very healthy, and have been in the store for a while (2-3 weeks). As I went through acclimation, each had regular breathing, but were lying down. They would swim around a little when I added acclamation water, so I didn't worry too much. All of the Cardinals were fine. I now believe that during the ride home, the two larger fish did not have as much room in the bags as the Cardinals, and that the rock was rolling around on the bottom. They literally could have been beaten up by the rock. In hindsight they looked stunned when I got home. <Did the folks use oxygen, squeeze out all the ambient air...? I do hope so> They were both still looking rather lazy this morning, and now the Angel didn't make it. Is there anything I can do to help the Filefish?? <Other than good upkeep, optimized, stable water quality... aeration... not really> He is in quarantine with no indication of recovery. He still has energy to swim, but only if I am working on the water. I couldn't imagine anything would help, but thought you would know if there was. Thanks -Mark <This species does "just cruise" about... If concerned, I would take the calculable risk of pH-adjusted freshwater dipping and placing the File in your main system. Bob Fenner>

Filefish sick, Clowns vs. polyps  9/2/05 Hi guys I am so happy that I have you to ask some questions. <Okay, how do I get a date with Heather Locklear? Oh, you want to ask...> There is so much to know in this hobby. <Perhaps infinite... in terms of human lifetime> Anyways, I have two questions. I have a saltwater tank with 5 blue Chromis, a pair of percula clowns and a dragonet. The largest fish, about 2 inch diameter, is my Tassled filefish "Harry". <Good name> Harry has been fine for one year in this setup. In the last week or two he has slowed down in his activities. Today is the first day he will not eat. All the other fish are and I can not tell anything wrong with them. As I thought back, I did realize that I had to tempt the filefish a little longer to come and eat. He always did though, he always has been a very eager consumer. About one year ago I had three Banggai Cardinals in this setup, that all died from an internal parasite. They all stopped eating, had the telltale white feces and died. Since my filefish has always sifted sand through his mouth to catch little treats, is it possible that he may have ingested this parasite? <Mmm, not likely> I heard the only way a fish can get this internal parasite is by ingesting it. Could it be that that parasite is still in the sand and active after one year? <Again, probably something else at work here... Cumulative nutritional deficiency, perhaps bullying by the damsels...> My other question is this: I have another small saltwater tank with only one pair of tomatoe clownfish. A couple of days ago I introduced a seamat and a yellow polyp rock into the system. Since then the clownfish have attacked both coral rocks, attempting to move them. Is this normal behavior? And is there anything I can do to discourage it? <Remove the rocks, polyps... something about them the fish don't like> Again, thank you so much for being here for us. I am eagerly awaiting your answers. You guys are the best! <For the filefish, a change of tanks? Addition of a refugium (and quick), trial of other (live) foods... If you suspect internal parasites, the use of Metronidazole/Flagyl (see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/metranidazole.htm and the linked files above). Bob Fenner> One day ich, bloated filefish Hi, Is there a disease that looks like ich but only lasts 24 hours or less? <Mmm, there are such possibilities, but likely this is crypt/ich> Appears about once a month, usually on one fish at a time, 2-4 lesions which are larger than ich seen at the LFS. I need to find a new home for some of the fish exposed but don't want to spread it, whatever it is. I have a 20 and can move all fish to it, treat, and let the system go fallow, but am not sure what I am treating. <Most all external parasites of marine fishes can be treated about the same... See WWM re> During a recent heat wave had another episode of the 1 day "ich" followed by severe disruption of the skin of a yellow clown goby. <Touchy to treatment...> An orange spot filefish had 2 white spots on the dorsal, one of which left a bullseye shape in hazy white the next day, no red. Following day it did not eat, kept the file up, got pale, bloated, and laid on its side. Both fish had 2 spots which disappeared for 2 days, then they got seriously ill. Am thinking secondary infection of the parasite <Possibly> wound so moved both fish to a 10 and dosed Maracyn 2. After 24 hours did a large water change and re-did the first day dose of 2 pills plus a tbsp Epsom salts for the bulging eyes (water looked milky and nasty). Plan on doing the next 4 days with single pill dose/no water changes/no more Epsom salts till the end as the package suggests. Both fish are already better in appearance. Should I continue or switch direction, if it doesn't cure or kill what would be the next action? Assuming if I get the secondary infections wrapped up still need to deal with the alleged ich. <I would dose as you list, keep changing water out, monitor ammonia, nitrite... hope> Do you feed a fish recovering from bloat and what/when would you suggest? I have live daphnia, brine shrimp, pods, worms, Mysid shrimp live or frozen and the usual array of frozen foods. <Feed sparingly, whatever the fish will take> Bloat may be food related, LFS stores here often thaw and refreeze so have mail-ordered all new frozen food for the future... the wholesalers deliver it thawed and warm in the summer. Ugh. I did quarantine all these fish but suspect I carried a pathogen from a QT tank on hands or clothes or from when I worked at an LFS. (that's how I know about the frozen food) <You have a good mind for all this...> This is what I get for announcing my success with keeping an orange spot filefish. <... a very difficult aquarium species> I got him as a rescue and he's been here for months, doing well till recently. Right about when I started telling people of my alleged success. I guess I am half Murphy and here comes the law. Suggestions? File is actively hunting despite his bloated appearance... <Do you have a "sacrificial" small polyped stony coral?> I have no idea if he's on a long term effective diet as he should be eating Acropora polyps. He did like Condylactis anemone at the store, could get him one of those... Does not eat tulip, Aiptasia or majano unfortunately. (: I will probably never get another of these as they shouldn't be in the trade, he was a rescue, and I really don't want to lose him. Thanks, Kate <I wish folks in the trade would leave this species in the ocean, stores wouldn't buy it, hobbyists would refuse to purchase... Bob Fenner>  

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