Planted Tank Guru
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Contra Costa CA
Ich is a parasite with a particular life cycle. By matching your treatment to the life cycle you can kill it, or at least make sure it is gone.
The spots you see have been on the fish for several days. They landed on the fish as single celled critters that you cannot see. They grow for a while, and get big enough to see. Then they fall off the fish and land on the floor of the tank or on other things in the tank. They reproduce, producing hundreds of single celled babies that must find a host right away (24-48 hours) or die.
The timing of the life cycle is temperature dependent.
At the warmer tank temperatures (80*F) Ich can go through its life cycle in less than a week.
At cooler pond temperatures (60*F) it may linger for a month.
Ich can live in the gills, where you cannot see it. The fish itches, though, so you may see the fish flashing.
When the Ich is actually on the fish it is buried in slime coat and cannot be killed. Treatment is aimed at the babies in the water.
Heat: Most forms of Ich cannot reproduce when the temperature is over about 86*F. To make sure that the WHOLE volume of water is this hot, raise the tank temperature to 90*F. A week ought to do it. Make sure you increase the aeration in the tank. Warmer water holds less oxygen.
Salt: Ich is not tolerant of salt. Mollies are highly tolerant of salt. I would dose 1 tablespoon per 5 gallons. More is not a problem for Mollies. This is a high level for plants. Remove valuable plants. Keep only trimmings that you do not mind losing. Remove shrimp. Add the salt slowly by dissolving the salt in some water and pouring it into the tank a little at a time, spreading it out through the day.
Isolation: Ich cannot live without a host. A tank with shrimp only, and plants will not harbor Ich. If you can remove all the fish then keep them elsewhere for a couple of weeks (warm water) or longer (cool water) all the Ich will die in the tank.
Vacuuming: A bare bottom tank is quite easy to vacuum. Do this daily. This removes all the Ich before they can reproduce.
Ultra violet sterilizer: Will kill the babies. Make sure...
1) VERY good circulation. You do not want ANY dead spots in the tank where Ich could reproduce.
2) Bright enough bulb.
3) Dwell time appropriate to the bulb brightness. If the water passes through too fast Ich is not killed.
All of these treatments can be combined. UV does not degrade the salt.
Medication: Rid Ich is one of the milder ones that really works. I have not heard good things about the 'herbal' treatments. Copper treatments work, but are toxic to snails and shrimp, and tend to linger in the tank so you might not be able to keep sensitive critters in there for a long time.
Here is what I would do:
1) separate the fish from the shrimp and snails. Keep only 'throw away' plants in the tank with the fish.
2) Keep the good plants in the tank with shrimp and snails. Keep this tank fish-free for a month.
3) Treat the fish in the separate tank:
High temperature (plenty of aeration)
Salt to 1 tablespoon per 5 gallons (This dose is for salt-tolerant fish)
UV sterilizer (I already have 2 of them, so this is not a cost issue for me. If you do not want to buy one, that is OK)