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Freshwater Ich 
by Dr. Erik L. Johnson, Veterinarian and Fish Health Specialist.   2/29/96
If I had to guess, I would guess that every singe hobbyist in the whole world WILL encounter Ich at some time. Usually the meeting occurs early on, as a beginner, before water quality parameters such as Ammonia, Nitrites and 'The Cycle' become more familiar, and 'Quarantine' is just a high ideal observed by a few pathetic perfectionists.
What is 'Ich'?
Freshwater Ich (Ichthyophthirius multifilis) is a ciliated protozoan that encysts under the epidermis of the fish; and, in its encysted condition, causes small white spots all over the fishes body and fins. In some cases, Ich spots may be present, but will not be visible. You may still see them under the scope, or you may see them exclusively on the gills. This is how infected fish may get into a tank without being detected, even if quarantined for a period of time. Asymptomatic carriers can sustain a population of Ich in a tank or pond for an indefinite period. Sometimes an owner will purchase a new fish who, being immunologically naive to Ich, will contract the condition immediately upon introduction to an 'endemic' (already infected but asymptomatic) group of fish. If a fish contracts Ich, and survives without treatment, they have shown strong immunity to re-infection, indicating that the potential for a vaccine exists, and is being worked on at University of Georgia and other institutions. It would have astonishing impac on the Catfish industry if it could be achieved.
Ich rapidly kills smaller tropicals and goldfish, while often sparing the larger varieties (fish such as Oscars and Koi). Damage to the gills is the primary way it kills, but damage to the skin with secondary bacterial infection may also figure prominently.
Its life cycle is roughly 2-5 days, but can be longer (5+ weeks!) if the water is cool, much shorter if the water is warmer. There is the old rumor that warm water eradicates it. This is substantially true when temperatures exceed 85 degrees, however; there are strains coming out of Florida and detailed by researchers at University of Florida that can survive and thrive up to NINETY degrees or more! Recall that many of our bread and butter species of tropicals come from Florida, and so may harbor this heat tolerant strain.
The parasite has a phase that encysts in the epidermis of the fish as previously stated (called a theront). It matures under the skin and finally drops off, falling to the bottom (becoming a trophont) to divide into numerous (hundreds) of tiny swarmers (tomites) that actively seek out a host on which to encyst and renew the cycle of infection. Because an important phase of its life cycle occurs on the bottom of the aquarium, it is for this reason that you can help limit infections with water changes made by siphoning the gravel, removing those dividing Ich packets.
Interestingly, some research at Oklahoma has revealed a strain of Ich that does not have to leave the fish and whose Ich packet (trophozoite) remains under the epidermis (safe from medications) and the tomites swarm out under the epidermis. The lesions look much like Carp Pox lesions, being large, flattened, and waxy looking. This parasite is harder to clear because it is the free swimming tomite that we can kill with medicaments.
Prevention is attended at the wholesale level by the maintenance of a 0.3% salt solution which crenates (kills) the emerging tomites. We do not recommend that you as a hobbyist maintain this salt level all the time because live plants can be killed by this, and all species of fish are NOT universally tolerant of this. Still, many have found that salt is a very effective annihilator of Ich infections if normal precautions are observed.

Costia & Chilodinella

Costia or Ichthyobodo necatrix, is a ciliated protozooan parasite of freshwater fish that also has the capability to kill goldfish in great numbers, and in no short time-span. The only good fortune in this is that it perishes readily when salted. Costia may be attached, or freeswimming. Attached Costia look like little commas stuck into the skin (or gill) by the thin end. Freeswimming Costia are graceless wobbly swimmers that look like commas or almost like half open Conch shells.
Costia clears easily with salt, and this infection should be suspected when alot of goldfish are dying, fins may be reddened, and it appears that the fish cannot breathe very well. Spiderweb lesions in rapidly dying goldfish  are also characteristic as well as excess mucus.
Chilodinella is one of the hottest goldfish killers there is. Under the scope you may see a heartshaped organism, or a large round organism full of tiny bubbles. Alive, the Chilodinella resembles a heart shaped onion, with a fuzzy end where you could imagine the onions roots would be. These are actually cilia. Dead, Chilodinella are motionless round balls full of tiny bubbles. They may resemble Ich but they do not have a crescent nucleus nor do they move in their dead, rounded state.
Chilodinella clears EASILY with salt. Leave the salt in for 14 days, and be sure to supplement aeration, as gill damage d/t Chilodinella may be severe in the survivors. Chilodinella should be suspected anytime large numbers of goldfish are dying on the surface, or who roll over on their sides except when disturbed, the Goldfish dash madly


Freshwater flukes occur in all parts of the world on numerous species of fishes. By their name, you might expect them to be visible to the naked eye, however, they are microscopic.
Flukes occur in two major classes, that is; Dactylogyrus, the famed Gill Fluke, and the second class is Gyrodactylus, the Skin fluke. There are certain morphological differencesbetween these two classes. Under the microscope, you would notice that the Dactylogyrus fluke has several pairs of eye-spots, and they also lay eggs. In a specimen of Gyrodactylus, you would only see an embryo inside, with no eyespots in the adult.
The class Dactylogyrus occurs in over a hundred different species. Notable members of the dactylogyrus group are the common and extremely damaging D. vastator and the amazing D. extensus (the common Israeli Fluke) which can function very efficiently in very cold water.
On average, Dactylogyrus lays about 2 eggs per hour in cold water (12o C), and as many as 20 eggs per hour in warm water (24o C).The eggs are swept out from under the gill cover into the environment. It takes the eggs almost a month to hatch in the wintertime, but only 4 days to hatch in the peak of summer. 4 days after hatching, the tiny larva becomes free swimming and can infect a new host. Ten days after attaching to a new host, the new larva matures and can begin egglaying activity. The adult will live anywhere from two weeks to a month and then perish. However, in cold water, individual adults and eggs can survive in hibernation for five to seven months. Most of the research supports the following mathematics, and that is: In the summer, one adult Dactylogyrus fluke can produce 2,320 individuals in only thirty days.
Gyrodactylus flukes reproduce by producing live young which set about parasitizing the host immediately. After the first fertilized egg moves into the uterus to be gestated, delivery occurs five days later and more eggs move into the empty uterus to resume the cycle. A female Gyrodactylus is always gestating, and they are so prolific that the embryo inside the mother actually gestates a fertilized egg from its mother in its uterus! One adult Gyrodactylus can produce 2,452 individuals within 30 days during the summer. As with Dactylogyrus, the adult will live anywhere from two weeks to a month and then perish. However, in cold water, individual adults and eggs can survive in hibernation for five to seven months.
Most flukes agree that the best place to live is onthe surface of a fishes' skin or gills, feeding on blood, and mucus found there. In my studies of these parasites, I have found considerable overlap of the different species on a single fish. Dactylogyrus seems to have no qualms about showing up in a skin scraping, and Gyrodactylus seems to have equal affinity for the gills.
All types of flukes share the same microscopic features: On their front (anterior) end we see suction cups, and on their foot end they are equipped with an array of sharp haptens or hooks. They can attach with either structure, but most often we see them deeply hooked into the skin or gill, exploring the surface of the fish with the suctorian end. Flukes are easy to diagnose miscroscopically. A skin scraping should be taken with a plastic coverslip from under the chin, between the gill covers. Another sample should be collected from the side of the body; scraping from there and out onto the tail and off the tip. The mucus is placed with a drop of pond water on a slide an viewed at 40x total magnification with the iris diaphragm closed down, and lighting low enough for comfort. You should see 'wormy' looking organisms. Usually they are extremely active. They are capable of elongating and contracting with both amazing speed and dramatic agility. Especially in water containing 0.3% salinity, usually flukes are all you could hope to see because the other types of parasites (ciliated protozoans) are anhilated by that salt level.
Their primary mode of killing would ostensibly be through the accumulation of large numbers. Especially in fish fry, the numbers of flukes encountered areaccepted as the cause of mortality simply because they take such a toll on the victim when they occur in large numbers. Based on observations made in practice, however, I would like to introduce my opinion of how just a few flukes can kill a larger fish.
In the process of attacking a host, the flukes dig deely into the epidermis and gill tissue with their haptens. Regardless of species, the flukes are known to carry and inoculate pathogenic bacteria. Flukes from certain areas, and on certain batches of fish carry more and more dangerous and virulent bacteria on their haptens. In this way, discovery of a few flukes on the gills or skin can account for rapid and mortal outbreaks of Aeromonas and Pseudomonas funrunculosis (Ulcer Disease).
Control of flukes has become increasingly easy with contemporary medicine. Potassium permanganate has been shown to be effective when applied as an eight hour bath at one gram per hundred gallons (2 ppm) or when dosed daily at 2 ppm for five days consecutively. Alternatively, some have found that despite it's negative effects on fish and filter, that Formalin is effective in eradication of fluke adults, with a second treatment (three days later) serving as clean-up for the emerging young. Finally, Fluke Tabs® (Aquarium Products, Glen Burnie MD) have also shown strong effect in warmer water at one tablet per ten gallons applied in two treatments 4 days apart. .

Anchor Worm & Lice

Argulus is a crustacean or branchiurian aprasite most commonly encountered in ponds, but they are also found in aquaria. They are easily detected when they strike. They are greenish disc shaped organisms with suckers and small legs. They even have a pair of eye spots on the anterior end. They spend their time darting around in the water away from, and also directly on the fish. They lay their eggs in tubular structures on the glass and ornaments.
They can be very destructive to fish stocks.
They carry Aeromonas and other bacteria on their feeding stilletto and thus infect each fish they bite.
Treatment is by the application of the insect growth regulator, Dimilin, or Diflubenzuron.
Another method is more dangerous: Organophosphates like Trichlorfon, masoten, Dylox, Dipterex, FLAW, Malathion and Fenthion. Anchors Away is also an organophosphate. i resist the use of these, because losses may result. Dimilin is superior to these compounds when fighting Argulus.
Lernea elegans, the most common type of Anchor worm affecting Koi, is a real threat. They attach ventrally, they hold on for about 14 days, and they reproduce copiously. The wounds they create almost always infect with Ulcer disease bacteria, Aeromonas, and then you have two problems.
Treatment can be undertaken with Malathion, Fenthion, Trichlorfon, Dylox, Dimilin, and SALT. Salt works by killing the freeswimming reproductive forms. Malathion just kills the Lernea dead, but is dangerous to the fish. Fenthion is slow but safer. Dimilin is great if you can get it. EPA and FDA will trounce you for having and using it. I do recommend removing any adults you see attached and swabbing the wounds with Iodine or mercurachrome. I do recommend also feeding an antibiotic food when you see Lernea to head off problems. Please see the formulary for doses on the various treatments.
By weight is 25% Dimilin, 75% inert ingredients.
Active ingredient: Diflubenzuron
Dimilin is a restricted use pesticide with a specific spectrum against insects and crustaceans.
Therefore, it is highly effective against Lernea and Argulus.Common names for these parasites are 'Anchor Worm' and 'Fish Lice' respectively.
Dimilin is toxic to invertebrates*, so don't let the water run into rivers or creeks.
*(Will kill crayfish, water fleas, etc.)
Mix Dimilin with water and apply at a rate of one gram per 1,000 gallons to be treated.Published dosage is between 0.03 and 0.06 ppm.
Restated: For 1,000 gallons, mix 1 gram dry Dimilin in some water, mix well, then sprinkle it over the surface of your 1,000 gallon system.
For 100 gallons, dissolve 1 gram  in 100 cc water, then use 10 cc of the suspension. Do not try to save the rest of the suspension.
If you do not have a gram scale or a balance-beam: 1 gram Dimilin fits neatly into a level 1/2 teaspoon measure.
1 level (non-packed) teaspoon equals @ 2 grams.As a side note:  1 gram Dimilin per 150 gallons (tried experimentally) to adjudge the relative toxicity of the compound was found to cause no ill health in the Koi tested. (24specimens under 6 inches in length)
Reapply at 30-60 day intervals for season-long control.
Use of this product is illegal. You mus be a licensed pesticide applicator to use this product. FDA considers this a high enforcement priority.  If you possess or use Dimilin, I would recommend doing so VERY discretely.

Bacterial Infections

Fish with reddish lesions in the body or fins, fish with swollen eyes, red mouths or bellies, or those that just die for no apparent reason may all be affected by bacterial sepsis.
Sepsis is one of the hardest conditions to treat because not only are the bacteria protected by the fishes tissues and bloodstream, the internal organs of the fish are often so compromised that even if you COULD eradicate the bacterial invader, you would lose the fish to other complications.
If you must try, please heed my advice NOT to add antibiotics to the water.
There are four concepts to understand concerning fin rot.
First, finrot is usually a bacterial infection which results from any one of four causes,
1. Fin nipping
2. Parasites like Flukes or Ich inoculating pathogenic bacteria into the skin
3. Deteriorating water quality, inadequate filtration, or high bacterial counts in the water because a hobbyist is not using an undergravel plate and the gravel bed has become stagnant.
4. Poor nutrition
Second concept:
To recover fish, water quality must be corrected even if you start using antibiotics to kill the primary bacterial invader. Remember that most any treatment you might use for pathogenic bacteria will likely also affect your nitrifying (filterbed) bacteria and this can, in loaded systems that are already barely keeping up, cause Ammonia or Nitrite accumulations.
Third Concept:
Treat in a  hospital tank. A ten gallon with a hood, a heater at about 78 degrees, and a sponge filter all cycled and ready. Treat with Trimethoprim Sulfa 960mg in ten gallons of water made fresh daily for 6 hours a day for three days. Alternative drugs would be any of the Furan antibiotics or even possibly, as a very last resort, Maracyn from Mardel "Labs".
Fourth Concept:
Nutrition is best supplemented with live or fresh frozen foods fed from a basket feeder. It makes a difference because from a basket feeder, there is little waste, and fewer food morsels are lost in the tank, therefore water quality does not deteriorate, bacterial numbers do not rise, and fish are capable of recovery. Good choices are Ocean Nutritions Brine Shrimp Plus, or plain brine shrimp, blood worms or maybe Prime Reef.
So, for finrot, consider an overhaul of the system to optimize water quality. Consider removing affected specimens to a hospital tank and treating there. Consider a basket feeder and varying the diet.
One last consideration: Veiltail fishes, like fancy goldfish and Angelfish, as well as Bettas, are particularly sensitive to high water borne bacterial counts. Their fins are very large, and vascular supply to the tips is low, and so bacteria have an easy time feasting there if the water is very rich in organics and lots of bacteria are being supported. Veiltails need alot of filtration, and sparkling water. Sometimes your nose is the best judge, because even if you cannot see organically rich water with a high bacterial load, you sure can smell it.


Salt: Remove submerged plants. Perform a fifty percent waterchange, and clean the pond as well as reasonably possible without causing undue delay in treatment. Apply one teaspoon of non iodized table salt per gallon of water every 12 hours for three treatments (3 tsp per gallon). Alternatively, for larger systems, dose one pound per hundred gallons of water every 12 hours for three treatments (3 pounds per hundred gallons). Add all at once in the case of epidemic mortality.

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