Medicate Indiscriminately for Mysterious Fish Deaths??? - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-24-2012, 12:12 AM Thread Starter
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Medicate Indiscriminately for Mysterious Fish Deaths???

Over the past month or two I've gradually lost over half the fish in my tank, and I have no idea why!...

My concern is that I might have introduced some type of disease/bacteria/virus/fungus/parasite with new fish or the live food, but I wouldn't have any idea what due to lack of any evidence. Should I start randomly treating with subsequent courses of different medications? And I wouldn't even know where to start if that is so. I certainly know that's not recommended action, but I'm getting desperate here and feel like I need to do something. Are there any one/two/or three treatments which might be effective in combating a range of possible mysterious conditions??

There are no real signs of disease, but one after the other the fish suddenly starts acting listless, occasionally are breathing hard, sometimes lose their balance near the end, and then within a day or two are gone. And they generally seemed perfectly happy and healthy prior to that.

Should I break the tank down, and sterilize everything including dipping the plants in a solution and medicating the fish in quarantine despite that it probably wouldn't likely be thorough enough to sterilize everything sufficiently, or is it better to try to treat everything in the tank together if it might be some disease?

Water conditions seem okay, GH is quite hard, PH is near neutral, no nitrites, nitrates at about 20, so I'm not guessing it is anything really to do with the water conditions. The tank is densely planted and has an oversized biofilter and a generous amount of carbon I change every few weeks. I do a 50% water change every few weeks as well.

The fish are/were Apistogramma borelli - almost entirely gone, Cardinal Tetras - mostly still there, my second Betta - again gone, Corydoras - still there. A few months back I added some Endlers from a local chain store, which quickly passed and afterwards I lost my Platies.

And I also recently fed some live Daphnia that I had been culturing in jars with some infusoria and other microfauna such as Gammarus which I collected with some... local pond scum/duckweed. (That probably doesn't sound good, does it?)
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-24-2012, 12:45 AM
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I'm guessing it has to do with your water params. Try mixing distilled/RO water with your water change to dilute the gH. Do it for a month and see if there's any deaths.


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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-24-2012, 01:26 AM
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Here are a few ideas. I have no idea which, if any, might be the answer.

Fish can come in sick from the stores or problems can be introduced with live food caught in local waters. Treatment would depend on what disease or parasite was the problem, but here are some of the slower acting things:
Most internal parasites, or worms are pretty slow, and you might not see obvious signs. Also, worming the fish is not so bad, so I would run 2 courses of wormers. Do some research as to which medicines are available in your area, and which meds kill which groups of worms. No one medicine will kill all types of internal parasites. Pick 2 meds, which kill different groups of worms. Run one full course of treatment with each type of wormer. Prazi-Pro is one good one. Levamisol (if you can get it) is another. There are others. Some are sold for fish, others are sold for dogs and cats, but there are ways to use these for fish.
The most common method of treatment is to medicate for a few days (often 3 days) then do a water change. Medicate again about a week later, again for 3 days, followed by another water change. Many parasites have some stage where they are not susceptible to medicines, and this medicate-break-medicate is a way of getting at least 2 generations of parasites. Of breaking the cycle. Follow the specific directions on whichever medications you use.

Mycobacteriosis is the other slow moving disease that might kill a fish or two every now and then. The only real way to accurately diagnose this disease is by examining the internal organs of a freshly dead fish with a particular stain. Symptoms vary, or there may be no symptoms, just dead fish. Opinions vary about treatment. I have read that Kanamycin is a possible treatment, but I have also read that there is no effective treatment.
You could treat, and hope.
You could not treat, just isolate this tank then sterilize it after the fish die.
You could euthanize the fish and sterilize the tank.
To sterilize against MB: First wash everything well with bleach, then wash well with rubbing alcohol. Bleach will break down the biofilms on all the surfaces and has some action against the bacterium. Rubbing alcohol is more active against the organism, but does not break down the biofilms as well.
Throw away anything that will not tolerate this sort of treatment (plants), or is so porous it is not worth risking (Substrate, driftwood).

Other slow moving problems: Water chemistry that is not bad enough to kill, but causes some issue that will kill the fish slowly. I do see such an issue, but in your tank it does not seem to be the right one: Cardinal Tetras can accumulate excess calcium in their system and die. This is most common when they are kept in water with too high GH. In your tank this does not seem to be happening. The Cards are surviving, hard water tolerant fish are dying.
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-24-2012, 01:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Diana View Post
Here are a few ideas. I have no idea which, if any, might be the answer.

Fish can come in sick from the stores or problems can be introduced with live food caught in local waters. Treatment would depend on what disease or parasite was the problem, but here are some of the slower acting things:
Most internal parasites, or worms are pretty slow, and you might not see obvious signs. Also, worming the fish is not so bad, so I would run 2 courses of wormers. Do some research as to which medicines are available in your area, and which meds kill which groups of worms. No one medicine will kill all types of internal parasites. Pick 2 meds, which kill different groups of worms. Run one full course of treatment with each type of wormer. Prazi-Pro is one good one. Levamisol (if you can get it) is another. There are others. Some are sold for fish, others are sold for dogs and cats, but there are ways to use these for fish.
The most common method of treatment is to medicate for a few days (often 3 days) then do a water change. Medicate again about a week later, again for 3 days, followed by another water change. Many parasites have some stage where they are not susceptible to medicines, and this medicate-break-medicate is a way of getting at least 2 generations of parasites. Of breaking the cycle. Follow the specific directions on whichever medications you use.

Mycobacteriosis is the other slow moving disease that might kill a fish or two every now and then. The only real way to accurately diagnose this disease is by examining the internal organs of a freshly dead fish with a particular stain. Symptoms vary, or there may be no symptoms, just dead fish. Opinions vary about treatment. I have read that Kanamycin is a possible treatment, but I have also read that there is no effective treatment.
You could treat, and hope.
You could not treat, just isolate this tank then sterilize it after the fish die.
You could euthanize the fish and sterilize the tank.
To sterilize against MB: First wash everything well with bleach, then wash well with rubbing alcohol. Bleach will break down the biofilms on all the surfaces and has some action against the bacterium. Rubbing alcohol is more active against the organism, but does not break down the biofilms as well.
Throw away anything that will not tolerate this sort of treatment (plants), or is so porous it is not worth risking (Substrate, driftwood).

Other slow moving problems: Water chemistry that is not bad enough to kill, but causes some issue that will kill the fish slowly. I do see such an issue, but in your tank it does not seem to be the right one: Cardinal Tetras can accumulate excess calcium in their system and die. This is most common when they are kept in water with too high GH. In your tank this does not seem to be happening. The Cards are surviving, hard water tolerant fish are dying.
if it somehow does manage to be MB, Bleach will not harm it. The only effective ways to sterilize equipment infected with MB is heavy doses of chlorine and UV. Diana walstead had an outbreak that caused her to do intensive research on the bacteria. After reading it I am less afraid of it, more cautious. MB is a very slow growing bacteria, the method she has successfully used for treating and clearing her tank of MB was out competition via other natural bacteria. She has a really good article on it in the following link. Her findings were running a UV sterilizer, not being methodical while cleaning the tank, and having restraint about using antibiotics as a first action. Destroying other faster easier growing bacteria only enhances the ability of the very hard to kill MB to gain the upper hand causing fish deaths. Making sure your fish are healthy and stress free give them the upper hand in letting their own immune system to fight it off. (which is why usually older or very young fish have problems with the bacteria. What Diana found was that every body of water has various forms of MB, with Marium being the one that is pretty deadly to fish. when the bacteria system gets out of balance is when you start or could potentially have problems with it.

http://thegab.org/Articles/WalstadMyco_APC1.pdf

My advice for the OP is to use a different source for your fish and see if it keeps happening. Then start to look deeper. How were the fish acclimated? how is the water at your LFS? It could be more the quality of stock than the conditions of your tank.


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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-25-2012, 01:29 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone for the advice, and I think I'm going to medicate everything with a combination treatment. After researching it, I've ordered the Seachem Kanamycin, API Furan 2, and Seachem Metronidazole which I will all treat with simultaneously. Aquatronics Paragon 2 used to be what this three-fold treatment was available as, but they no longer do it so I'm recreating it myself. I might supplement that treatment with Vitamin B6 as well even, which is one recommended treatment in combination with my Kanamycin. I have Levamisol on hand as well, which I might try to run a course of beforehand even. Unfortunately this will be hard on the remaining fish, but better perhaps than euthanizing them still, maybe...

This is going to completely wipe out my biofilters however, so I might use the opportunity to replace my flourite sand substrate for MTS topped with white sand. As such, I might take the fish out and the plants I'd like to try and keep, and medicate them there. Then I'll siphon out the substrate, and medicate the display tank as well to ensure every hose and everything gets medicated. The established biofilter's death might cause some toxicity, so maybe it is better to have the fish in a quarantine tank instead.

I really like my driftwood though, which has a nice growth of anubias rooted over the top of it, so I'm not sure what to do about that!? Is it okay to medicate it as well, despite that it's going to have the medicine soaking into it? I will at the least have to be regimented about running and changing carbon for a good while hereafter. If not then I might be able to detach the anubias, boil or bake the driftwood, and then try to reattach the anubias afterwards. I suppose I need to boil my canister filter media as well in that case.

Unfortunately the tank has otherwise been very well established for about two years, plant growth is decent, and it looks very nice and healthy. I did lose my first Betta to dropsy symptoms, so likely there is Myobacteria present, but I don't know if I'll actually be able to succeed in sterilizing every last thing to the point where it won't simply return afterwards. The other losses haven't really shown physical signs of anything so it is tough to say.

That's rather odd through if bleach itself can't sterilize that bacteria, with bleach being such a strong solution of chlorine.

The fish had been drip-acclimated, and had already been in the tank for months and gained a good bit of size before I was losing them in succession, so I don't think it is that. Maybe I should switch to buying RO/DI water from the LFS. I tried filtering with a bunch of peat in the canister, but it didn't actually do much to reduce the hardness.

Unfortunately this means I will need to cycle the tank entirely again, but maybe I'll do it patiently and do dry start. I think I'll start treating new fish with the Paragon 2 recipe as well. But is there any way to 'deworm' and clean invertebrates such as nerite snails and shrimp with medication in quarantine, which won't kill them as well?

After having been reading into the natural ecosystem reef approach with live rock, live sand, live plankton, where diverse bacteria/protozoa/worms/etc are not only encouraged but actively introduced I had even been contemplating trying a similar approach in my tank and doing things like adding california blackworms to the substrate as well as other types of microfauna. But now I'm not sure if there is any benefit from taking such a risk?

The annoying thing however is the uncertainty of this all however, as I can't be sure of what the fundamental problem here really seems to be...
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-26-2012, 09:09 PM Thread Starter
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I realized the latest wave of casualties I experienced might be the result of low oxygen levels. My plants had overgrown the area around my filter return I realized as I was trying to analyze the tank and situation further, and this was really killing the current. I've discovered previously and I believe read as well, that bacteria such as MB happen to thrive better in lower oxygen levels. So I'm about to pluck those plants now, and reflect further on whether or not it would be advisable to nuke this tank with meds... (Or is that just my own excuse to rescape it if I'm going to break it down?)
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-26-2012, 10:58 PM
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Just a reminder that Levamisol (maybe other dewormers too?) doesn't kill worms. Only paralyses them. Many people don't seem to understand this, and you need to manually remove the worms by syphon, etc. A bare bottom is nearly essential as you will more than likely miss some worms if you have gravel, and you can end up with another infestation after a few months of thinking you are safe.


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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-26-2012, 11:03 PM
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Originally Posted by jcgd View Post
Just a reminder that Levamisol (maybe other dewormers too?) doesn't kill worms. Only paralyses them. Many people don't seem to understand this, and you need to manually remove the worms by syphon, etc. A bare bottom is nearly essential as you will more than likely miss some worms if you have gravel, and you can end up with another infestation after a few months of thinking you are safe.
well, true and not. It does paralyze the worms and since they're paralyzed, they can't feed and do other biological functions– they eventually die off.


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