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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
SO, interesting dilemma. I have kept freshwater fish for almost 10 years. I've worked in an aquatics store and have never seen something like this....

I recently shut down a cichlid tank for a more peaceful, planted community.

75 gallon tank,
ammonia and nitrite 0 ppm
nitrate 20-40 ppm
ph 7.8
temp 81 (cant go lower, heather is a POS)
flourite chips on top of pool sand
variety of plants

Original loadout:
1 clown loach
1 bristle nose pleco
1 rubber lipped pleco
6 albino cories
20 tiger barbs
15 rasboras

I had heard (and repeated to customers:icon_frow) that tiger barbs are possible in a community as long as they are in a large school. To quote Dwight Schrute: FALSE. They mercilessly chased my albino cories and I took them out 24 hours later. The albino cories obviously had some torn/slice fins. I added more fish a few weeks later and got to this level:

original loach and 2 plecos, and rasboras, cories
40 neon tetras
1 large ghost shrimp (only survivor from the angels)
3 angelfish (received for free from breeder who had a tank break, not idael but I said ok)

After the angelfish started breeding and fighting, I traded them in for some store credit (and I also think they ate all my ghost shrimp).

Now to the mystery. My albino cories gradually lost ALL their fins, but still have all barbels intact. They look like nasty little white mustached grubs wiggling around everywhere. I then noticed that my clown loach, ever the active boss in my tank, started hiding more and he, after close observation, had only stubs left for fins (side, dorsal, tail, everything)... and his barbels are also partially gone. My bristlenose pleco, TOO, has just stubs left for fins.... there is no visible white rot, or symptoms of tail rot. They are all eating, they just have no/or disappearing fins. The rubber lipped is only bottom feeder who seems to have most fins intact... I cant see damage, but he also hides most of the day. What on earth is causing this? The rasboras and neons are doing great (maybe 1 or 2 neons out of 40 have some missing slices of tail, from in-species fighting maybe???). Rasboras all look great. Neons all look great.

I'm wondering... maybe the angels were going after other fish in the night, Trogdor-style? I can't honestly say that I monitored the tank hardcore, I have two kids, work fulltime, and am getting my master's online... but I never saw the angels go after anyone but each other. Would their fins just corrode away like this? I treated with Melafix for a week with no luck. They have had their fins this way now for at least a month. FYI, I have only lost a total of three fish since I started the community tank, 1 rasbora, 1 neon, and 1 cory, and these were all right when I started the tank up. So this doesn't appear to be some vicious disease.

Any thoughts or suggestions? I want to add more cories to see if they experience the same thing (then maybe I know its contagion of some sort???) HELP!
 

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How bizarre.
Since it's only the under carriages of the bottom dwellers, I would think it is substrate related, or possibly something living in it.
Maybe scuds or something are snacking on fin in the night?
Creepy.

-Stef*
 

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Reassuring! LOL Hmm well any record of fin-eating scuds or copepods that anyone knows of?? Makes me glad I'm not sleeping in there.

How bizarre.
Since it's only the under carriages of the bottom dwellers, I would think it is substrate related, or possibly something living in it.
Maybe scuds or something are snacking on fin in the night?
Creepy.

-Stef*

I should note, it's all fins including dorsal... And the substrate is fairly new... added it when I shut down cichlid community and started planted community.
 

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Fresh Fish Freak
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I'd personally lean towards thinking you've got some sort of infection running through the tank, and try a broad-spectrum antibiotic.

Do you dose nitrates? Those are super high if you're not, and I'd step up on water changes.

The Neons aren't showing any issues at all? No sunken bellies or anything?
 

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The baffle is that the tetras and rasboras are fine, and I would think they would be the first to show problems with an infection, and it's been a month and they show no symptoms?
You don't happen to have any photos of your fish?

I'm still thinking it's substrate related since that's where the bottom dwellers ...er...dwell.
Or something specialized that only affects bottom dwellers.

I, personally, am not fond of ghost shrimp, seen them in action with little fish, but I couldn't imagine one stripping all those cories.

I watched scuds totally slaughter a tank of large mystery snails before. (Never when I was actually watching. After lights out.)

Keep us updated.

-Stef*
 

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A large ghost shrimp? Make sure it's not a Macrobrachium sp. AKA a whisker shrimp. They will definitely nip at your fishes fins. Finrot is also a possibility but you need to take a pic to be sure.
 

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see attached for pics of cores, loach, and bristle nose (only the cories could I really get a good picture.)

All neons and rasboras (besides 2-3 with slightly beaten fins) are good to go. Cories were first to lose tails and that was months ago.

If it's scuds... how on earth could I find out? What eats them? Could this result from high nitrates? I don't dose nitrates (only a Flourish comprehensive), but did slack off hard on water changes for awhile. I have two Emperor 400s on there, due to heavy bioload I use to have for cichlids. Those, and the plants, I would think would prevent nitrates from becoming too harmful. I'm in the national guard and am out of town for a month or two at a time, and my wife has her hands full with little ones... so needless to say there are windows where the tank is lucky to even get topped off.

But again... my little canaries(neons) are happy as can be... so what the hecK? lol:help::help:

The shrimp is definitely not a Macrobrachium sp. by the way... he has the regular, tiny little ghost shrimp pinchers.
 

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Looks like you need to do more frequent water changes then. The nitrates aren't the problem. The waste that accumulated at the bottom of the tank from all the fish poop and other decaying matter is the problem. Higher levels of decaying organic material can harbor colonies of harmful bacteria. Try skimming the surface of the substrate and remove most of the mulm you see. Also, see if you can convince your wife to do a water change more often. Having a Python No Spill Water Change system or something similar will make your water changes faster and easier.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I feed every other day, about 1/4 tsp New life Spectrum, and two small (1/2 size of dime) sinking bottom feeder wafers for loach and cories to share. No spectrum hits the bottom and the wafers are always gone in an hour or so. Light feeding, combined with 2 emp 400s on the back, and no visible 'mulm' of any kind... If I had harmful bacteria from food buildup, I would think the neons would be the first to die.
 

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Fresh Fish Freak
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Looks like you need to do more frequent water changes then. The nitrates aren't the problem. The waste that accumulated at the bottom of the tank from all the fish poop and other decaying matter is the problem. Higher levels of decaying organic material can harbor colonies of harmful bacteria.
Agreed. Nitrates are just a useful indicator of all the other biological waste that's harder to test for. The nitrate levels in this tank to me says that there's been considerable biowaste buildup. It's normal, it happens, just need to step up maintenance a bit to deal with it. I think people often tend to forget to account for fish growth- many of the fish in your tank were likely 1/2 the size they are now when you first got them. Which means that they now eat a lot more, poop a lot more, and your total livestock mass now could be 2x (or more) than what it was when you first set the tank up- even with no new fish additions.

Improving your water quality with bigger and more frequent water changes might solve the fin problem on its own, as in general fish are pretty resiliant and able to heal on their own given good water quality.

I personally still think you've got an infection and would try an antibiotic, though. The fact that just the bottom feeders are affected could indicate that it's a bacteria that is passed through physical contact (gotta love how bottom dwellers all tend to pile on top of each other to sleep), or one that lives right under the substrate where only the scavengers hit it with their barbels, or something of that nature.

The extent to which this fin problem has spread across several species worries me, I'd personally try and hit it hard before you start getting casualties.
 

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Yeah I would go with infection if it was substrate than the barbels would be missing you would think. Also I would think scuds would get eaten by your fish not the other way around.
 

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I'm still head scratching on this one.
If it was anchor worms, you would of seen them during the erosion.
(Also, you been in the hobby for 10 years and worked at an aquatics store, so I'm sure you encountered parasites before.)

If your substrate was the culprit, being too harsh, the dorsals would not be gone.
Maybe it's a coincidence; the angels or something bit them, they haven't grown back yet, meanwhile the substrate is still "sand papering" them?

Scuds hide in substrate. If you don't overfeed, there is really no food source for them, other than tender parts of slow moving fish, and each other, when desperate.
They can't get to the barbels because that is the business end of the bottom dweller.
They can hitch rides in from plants or transfer from other aquarium waters, like shrimp.
(microscopic young)

To rule out scuds:
If you drop a slice of blanched zucchini, let it sit overnight, pull it up and inspect it-you should see them.
They are a source of food, and a lot of fish (bettas in particular) relish them. Tetras don't "hunt" the bottom of the tank much, especially with lights off. Inactive, passive critters can be sitting ducks.

If it's selective fin rot, QT and medicate. Just be careful what you use, as cories/catfish can be sensitive.

I hope it is not scuds-you really have to nuke the whole tank to get rid of them, and start over.
I have seen other threads/posts/sites about your same problem, and no one seems to have an answer or follow up.

-Stef*
 

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I'd have to say infection, fin rot or water issues. I do run into issues with fins on my bottom dwellers, but it's usually caused by my hyperactive female BN.

Since your BN is also nubbed, I'd assume that's an unlikely culprit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Well, for second time since posting, I'm doing about a 40% water change... will take some water to the fish store this weekend if I have time, to double check and make sure my kits aren't off. Will also try the zucchini method to test for scuds, though I dont have any... think small piece of sweet pepper, or cucumber would work?
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
new findings

So, it is with a heavy and embarrassed heart that I update on this situation.

Did another cleaning this evening, and changed out 25% water. I then sat and watched the fish for a good 15 minutes, inspecting each fish that I could to look for any damage. There were still 4-5 neons with slightly (so I thought) nipped fins, but then I saw two with similarly eroded fins, like my bottom feeders. It is indeed some sort of tail rot infection, after all. :icon_sad: The Melafix wasn't enough to knock it out, I guess.

So, on to dosing the entire tank. QT is not an option (don't have extra tank right now). What would you all recommend for taking care of this? There are so many options I've seen... would love to hear from your personal experiences. Kanaplex, Maracyn, Paraguard, Furan, one of the "general cures"? Thank you for any thoughts!
 

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I'd step up water changes to 50-75% to really knock down those nitrates and get the overall water quality back up much more quickly. You want to go ahead and get the water quality as good as possible now before you start antibiotic dosing, since you usually can't do water changes once you start that.

I usually only go for the antibiotics as a last resort... IMO your tank situation qualifies, so at this point I'd pull out the big guns and go for one of the broad spectrum antibiotics. Maracyn 2 and Triple Sulfa are the 2 that I've used in the past with good results. I've never used Furon or Kanaplex, and isn't Paraguard just for external parasites? (that's from memory, may be incorrect), so no personal experience with those.
 

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Don't be embarrassed! The mystery is solved, and the healing can begin.
I'd go with Maracyn, too, but whatever you use, make sure it is compatible with sensitive catfish.
Thank God it wasn't scuds. They are hard to get rid of :)

-Stef*
 

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Before you go dumping some antibiotics into your fish tank, you should do some research on which ones work best for you. The bacteria that causes fin rot are usually gram-negative, being either Aeromonas, Pseudomonas, Vibiro, or a combination of some or all three. Therefore you should pick an antibiotic that treats gram negative bacteria. Neomycin sulfate and Kanamycin sulfate are two gram-negative antibiotics that work great in conjunction to treat fin rot. However, keeping your water clean will help speed up the healing process.
 
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