neon tetra with fungus, plus assorted tank problems. Why??? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-03-2020, 03:14 PM Thread Starter
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neon tetra with fungus, plus assorted tank problems. Why???

I'm looking for advice about treating a neon tetra who I suspect has cotton wool disease/cotton fin fungus. But I'm also interested in advice on my tank overall -- after a couple years of stability we're going through a hard time.

At first I thought the neon tetra had ich and was preparing to treat that. But then I realized it's only two spots on the fish's body (top of body and tail), they look raised, no "salt-like" appearance, and no spots that I can see on other fish. So now I suspect fungus, probably cotton wool/cotton fin.

I don't have a second tank in which to quarantine the fish. Should I treat the whole tank? Or move the tetra to a kitchen pot or bowl (where it won't have a filter etc)?

Other inhabitants in my planted tank, 30 gallons:
6 black skirt tetras
6 neon tetras
3 cory catfish
1 oto catfish
5 endlers plus some tiny babies

Signs that I'm having bigger problems:
- Betta died about 6 weeks ago. It was probably pretty old, but it was my first fish death in a long time.
- All 3 of my amano shrimp died in the space of a week about 10 days ago, and I have no idea why. They'd done just fine for a year or two.
- One female endler has looked sick for weeks -- clamped dorsal fin sometimes, sometimes swims with tail lower than it should be.
- Yesterday a different female endler was behaving really strangely, zipping around the tank kind of fast and aggressively in a way that's totally uncharacteristic.
- Female endlers hanging our near the top of the water. No signs of gasping for air, just a lot of time staying up there.
- Quite a lot of algae, several different kinds.

Parameters:
Ph 6.8
Ammonia 0
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 30-40
KH 1 (tested 10 days ago but it's been consistent every test for 14 months)
GH 8 (ditto)

What I've been doing, based on advice from folks in these forums:

- When my betta died, all the parameters were exactly as listed above BUT nitrates were at 80. Since then I've been doing 25% water changes every 3 days, which mostly gets them down to the 30-40 range (occasionally 10-20). Nitrates in my tap water are 0. I just read advice to do two 75% water changes and then slow down my water changes back down to once a week (test nitrate levels after a week).

- Switched to NLS food plus Boyd's Vitachem daily.

- Treated with General Cure twice.

- Shortened the length of time the light is on each day by 1 hour.

I feel like I've been working really hard and my parameters seem decent. (1) Why are things going so poorly, and (2) what to do for my fungus-y neon tetra?

Thanks in advance!

Last edited by dorian444; 07-03-2020 at 03:32 PM. Reason: fix formatting
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post #2 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-03-2020, 05:40 PM
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I would do the following:

Do a few 25% or so water changes during the week, like space them a few days apart until you have your nitrate below 20ppm. if it's not a planted tank, just keep it up until you have reduced the nitrates down. But, I say space it out so you're not changing it all out too fast. The goal of this is to keep the tank stable while resetting the nitrate level lower, otherwise the 30-40ppm is going to be your baseline. Once you get to a good level less than 20ppm (less than that if its not planted), then take a nitrate reading throughout the week to get a better understanding of how much it raises during a single week. This will help you determine the appropriate level and frequency of water changes, and might also better help understand other factors that could be impacting nitrate levels -- overstocked, too much feeding, too much organic waste build up in filter or substrate. While you're doing this of course try to keep the other params as stable as possible so you don't accidentally drop or raise the PH or GH too much, etc.

Now I do realize that nitrates don't cause illness in fish directly, but it could be a symptom of other factors impacting your tank, like too much decaying organic matter. Additionally, high nitrates can stress fish out and when they get stressed out this can reduce their immunity to possible illnesses already present in the tank, or present in other fish. So a stable healthy tank that reduces the stress of your fish and increases their immune system helps as lot.

If the fish have been in this system for a while and you have not introduced any new fish recently, the I would guess something about your tank suddenly triggered this outbreak and your fish weren't strong enough to fight off infection.

I say this because I just went through this myself in a large tanks that had been stable and healthy for 1+ years, with few new fish new additions.

Two months ago, I lost half of a heavily planted 125 gallon tank after it got too heavily overgrown and too dense in organic matter (I also raised the temp a bit AND discontinued using my UV sterilizer after it kept tripping my GFI outlet).

Like I said, this was a stable tank. But it apparently had the possibility of an outbreak lurking in it, and my changes (and neglect given a hectic spring and summer) seems to have triggered that.

I lost probably 50 or so fish, mostly tetra species, but I also lost 2 rams, some guppies, CPDs and corys -- so yeah, a lot of fish! My wife wondered if my tank was having its own pandemic!

To fix this I dosed the whole tank with meds (I used the 'med trio' championed by the folks at Aquarium Coop) . I cleaned my sump/filter which was waaaaay overdo, pulled out some of the dense plants and turned the UV back on. My remaining guppies that had clumped, deteriorating tails recovered fine. All there other fish -- mostly danios and corys -- are doing great now.

HOWEVER -- EXCEPT the tetras, they continued to decline and I eventually had to euthanize the remaining 25 or so neons.

My neons were the only ones in the tank to really exhibit any visible illness and I isolated them and ran them through a number of different meds for various parasites and fungus -- following the packaging so as to not med them to death . But none of them ever recovered in the slightest and their symptoms got worse.

All signs pointed to possible 'neon tetra disease' -- they had progressively worse white and pale coloration, fungal patches, bent and curved backbones that they didn't originally have, hard cysts on their mouths -- and this never got better with meds. I'm not saying it was neon tetra disease--which i hear is actually quite rare -- but they were sick and didn't get better and had to be isolated and eventually dispatched.

So . . . . . . sorry for a long winded answer, but I just went through something similar to you and thought I could share how I approached recovering from it to the best of my ability and saving the other 50% of my fish community.

I hope this helps a little.
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post #3 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-03-2020, 05:51 PM
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A true fungal infection is almost always the byproduct of a bacterial infection. So sometimes you need to treat that, PLUS the fungus too. To treat fungus you need a fungus specific treatment (General cure won’t help, and it’s not really a “general cure” as it only treats a narrow swath of parasites)
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post #4 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-03-2020, 06:39 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks @tolstoy21 and @fermentedfunk!

So would you treat my whole tank? Or remove the sick neon tetra and either treat it in a bowl/pot, or euthanize it?

What treatment would you recommend for the fungus? The med trio mentioned by tolstoy21?
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post #5 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-03-2020, 08:18 PM
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I'd treat the whole tank if you can afford it. I would assume all fish might need some treatment. However, that specific med trio doesn't accommodate for all types of bacterial infections. So, after you treat with that, if fish haven't improved, you might need to separate some and then try a new approach.

I treated my whole tank, which was very expensive for a 125 gallon tank (don't want to do that again -- lesson learned!). But I had so many deaths I had to assume all fish were sick.

I watched my fish for about a month. After that time, I isolated the tetras to a separate tank as they were still not improving. I treated with Seachem Sulfaplex for a week (no effect) and then with a combination of Furan-2 and Kanaplex for a week (no effect either). I used this approach 1) hoping Sulfaplex would clear things up without resorting to other meds and 2) to cover a wider spectrum of bacterial infection types. i didn't not use Sulfaplex in the main tank because last time I attempted that it wiped out a bunch of plants. Erythromycin-based meds like API's erythromycin and Maracyn are both plant and invert safe in my experience, so that's what I used to treat the whole main tank. (I've used erythromycin in crystal red shrimp tanks with no deaths and those are known for being sensitive).

To be honest, my fish in the larger tank had a whole host of issues. Guppies had tail problems. I have a few danios and a barb with dropsy. And whatever was going on with the tetras. My electric blue rams crashed and burned fast during this time. My tank was so overgrown that I really didn't know how wide spread things were till i saw the rams go from GREAT to DEAD in a few days. That was my canary in a coal mine! IN retrospect i feel bad for the neglect i gave my aquarium, but i guess these things happen when life gets busy and one gets side-tracked.

Anyway. That was my approach and rational for starting with a full tank cure and then with targeted isolation.
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post #6 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-03-2020, 09:13 PM
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The meds in Cory's med trio are General Cure ( which you have already done), erythromycin (Why? Why is a gram + antibiotic recommended in this trio when the vast majority of bacterial infections that we deal with in aquarium are gram negative? Also, being that this antibiotic is a med used for combating gram positive bacteria, the use of this in a display tank can wipe out your biofilter or, if the tank is well-established, severally set it back. Erythromycin should only be used in a quarantine tank.), and Ich X ( anti-parasitic med that contains malachite green and formylene).

Now, if we were going to look at the active ingredients of each of these above meds the only one that would combat fungus would be the malachite green in Ich X. A better choice would be Paraguard because it contains acriflavine as well- which is an anti-bacterial. You could use this is the aquarium or as a bath.
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post #7 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-03-2020, 09:24 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks as always, @Discusluv. So you would start with Paraguard (not Ich-X)? Would you be inclined to start with bath or full aquarium?
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post #8 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-03-2020, 09:24 PM
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Do you see any fungal issues with the other fish?

If only fungus on one fish then use as a dip ( I had said "bath" in last post but I meant dip).

1 Hour dip: Use 3 mL per 4 L (1 US gallon) of either aquarium water or dechlorinated tap water ( to temp) in a container separate from your main tank.


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post #9 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-03-2020, 09:45 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Discusluv View Post
Do you see any fungal issues with the other fish?

No visible fungus on other fish. There are at least two endlers acting strangely (one with sometimes-clamped fin whose tail sometimes hangs down too low when she swims -- odd angle. The other being so oddly aggressive and wild yesterday briefly, now hanging out near the surface again very still -- although that's not usual for her).
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post #10 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-03-2020, 09:51 PM
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Originally Posted by dorian444 View Post
No visible fungus on other fish. There are at least two endlers acting strangely (one with sometimes-clamped fin whose tail sometimes hangs down too low when she swims -- odd angle. The other being so oddly aggressive and wild yesterday briefly, now hanging out near the surface again very still -- although that's not usual for her).
Are these fish affected eating?


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post #11 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-03-2020, 10:04 PM Thread Starter
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They seem to be eating normally. Though I haven't studied the two of them specifically during feeding. I did notice that the one with the clamped fin swims normally when she's excited about feeding time.

Dip done! That was my first dip ever. Repeat every 24 hours until the fish looks better?

Last edited by Darkblade48; 07-05-2020 at 12:22 AM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #12 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-04-2020, 04:24 AM
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Have a pic of whole tank? Especially showing whole tank and side profiles of substrate?

What kind of filtration/circulation do you have?

The whole thing sounds like secondary infections and deaths caused by declining tank conditions. You can medicate but you also need to find cause of declines in tanks inhabitants health and behavior or problems will just come right back.

How long has tank been setup?
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post #13 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-04-2020, 05:48 AM Thread Starter
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@DaveKS The tank has been set up 3 years. Fluval AquaClear filter (plus airstone for more movement).


I'll take photos tomorrow when the light is on.
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post #14 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-04-2020, 02:16 PM
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Dip done! That was my first dip ever. Repeat every 24 hours until the fish looks better?
Yes, repeat every 24 hours until better.
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post #15 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-05-2020, 04:13 AM Thread Starter
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@DaveKS Photos!

The bits of green visible on the side of the white substrate is algae on the glass. With some water changes I push sections of sand out of the way and use my glass scrubber to clean it off. I usually only do a section at a time, not the whole perimeter of the tank at once.
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