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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So this has not been a good week. I will give as much background as possible hopefully its not overkill...

SHORT VERSION: Fish are "scratching" on things (rubbing on leaves, etc and then swimming away) and have pale parts of fins which were not like that before.

Long Version:

I have a 48 gal tank with 7 harlequins, 7 rummynose, 2 madagascar rainbows (male/female), 1 peacock gudgeon, 1 blue ram, 1 SAE, 4 galaxy rasboras, and 1 bristlenose. The tank has been running for about a year and a half.

I added the gudgeon and the galaxy rasboras about a month and a half ago. I got them from a high quality, specialty fish store. The gudgeon was doing this weird thing where it would scrape its body against things and then dart off... like it was trying to scratch itself or something. I had never seen my fish do that before but I thought maybe it was a gudegon thing so I didnt think much of it.

A few weeks later a harlequin got this weird twitch and it was apparent something was wrong. I had one that did this before in the past and died, but I was determined to try and find out what was wrong this time. I read it may be its diet, as I was only feeding average quality flake food all the time. I got some freeze dried blood worms to try and even the diet out across the board but last weekend it died.

Now here is where things get tricky. I added the blue ram two weeks ago, made a questionable decision and got it from Petco. It seems to be doing fine. BUT my madagascar rainbow female died, which was quite a shock as it seemed completely fine. I did think to myself it almost looked pregnant last week because its belly was kind of fat. I dont know if that could be a symptom of something?

Now... here is why I am concerned. The remaining harlequins all seem like something is wrong. I saw one doing the weird "scratch" thing the gudgeon did when I first got it. This is concerning because I have never seen one do that before. They also are losing color in their fins, turning white towards the base of the body. The madagascar male which is still alive has white on the tip of one of its fins. I will try and post a pic later if that will help. Anyways, I know that the white is a very bad sign. The rummy nose and all of my new additions (GBR and gudegon) seem completely fine.

So what can I do? Also, I dont know where the problem originated. The GBR came from petco, which is not my first choice but it looked healthy when I bought it. The fish seem to be doing the same "scratch" the gudgeon did when I first got it though? Anyways, please help!

EDIT: Also, I did water changes after both fish deaths. I plan to continue to do about 50% every few days to try and get all new water in there.

Thank you to anyone who took the time to read all this and I appreciate any advice, no matter how small!
 

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Step one for me is to always make double sure the water is as clean as possible. From there it would be my guess that there are a number of things going on. The fat belly makes me guess an internal parasite but how are they all eating and acting now? Sounds like some info on how they seem to act before dying may help as well. The scratching/rubbing is often called "flashing" and it can be a pretty common thing but rarely a good thing. It can be as simple as the water not being right and they can often do this right after water changes but if it is often and lasts a long time it can also be a sign of something wrong. A bit hard to say at this point.
When in doubt and seeing "something", I often go for treating with Melafix and Pimafix as they are two meds which are not going to harm the good bacteria we want as well as being relatively cheap so it is practical to treat a whole tank.
QT tanks would have been better by far but that is past at this point.

Some water testing is needed to see what the water is doing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The fat belly makes me guess an internal parasite but how are they all eating and acting now? Sounds like some info on how they seem to act before dying may help as well. The scratching/rubbing is often called "flashing" and it can be a pretty common thing but rarely a good thing. It can be as simple as the water not being right and they can often do this right after water changes but if it is often and lasts a long time it can also be a sign of something wrong. A bit hard to say at this point.
When in doubt and seeing "something", I often go for treating with Melafix and Pimafix as they are two meds which are not going to harm the good bacteria we want as well as being relatively cheap so it is practical to treat a whole tank.
QT tanks would have been better by far but that is past at this point.

Some water testing is needed to see what the water is doing.
Well I have been doing water changes so that could explain the flashing (hopefully!). The fish have been eating pretty normally. I would say some of the harlequins appear to be gasping or breathing heavily. They are also somewhat lethargic and just kind of twitchingly stay in the same position in the tank. I will try the meds you mentioned because the last thing I want is for my rummys and unique fish to start dying off

EDIT: One last thing I noticed was one of the harlequins seems to have a dark spot on one side of its head. It is possible it has always been there but I just now noticed it...
 

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In some ways fish are like people in the ways they react and look during trauma or disease. When we are sick we may look like it? The fish can be the same so the appearance can be a clue but not the real problem. Normal eating can be a clue that their digestion is not effected although that can be misleading, too.
My main use of those two meds is based more on them not doing any harm and sometimes they do cure things that I would not risk using stronger meds to treat since I'm not sure what the real, true disease is without more info. We see the wrong treatment many times when dealing with humans, so I would assume that it goes double for fish since there is so much less effort spent on fish diseases. As my doctor informs me when he guesses about a cure for me, "we ARE still just practicing medicine".
I am slow to recommend a med until I'm sure of the disease as I find the wrong med can nearly kill me before we find the correct one. Many of the other folks are far better at that than me.
 

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Flashing generally means the fish itch. This can be caused by any of several things. You can investigate each of these and see if any of them turn out to be the answer:

Parasites like Velvet, Ich or larger parasites like Anchor Worm, Fish Lice, other. Velvet is the most difficult to see. Research how to find this on the fish.

Water quality: Wrong pH or rising ammonia are the two most common water quality problems that may make the fish flash. The whitened edges to the fins could be from ammonia burn.

Other: I am not sure what else could irritate them.

Some fish flash as a way of showing off or claiming territory. I know some Cichlids do this, I would not be surprised if Gobies did this, but I do not know if they do. I do not think most schooling fish do this. If they flash it is because they itch.

Fat fish:
Eggs developing. The improved health from adding the blood worms might have triggered it.
Constipation from change in diet, especially higher fat or protein. I would rotate through several types of food, including some with shells (daphnia, brine shrimp) as roughage.
As suggested above, internal parasites.

To prevent things like this, get a quarantine tank and hold fish for at least 30 days before putting them in the main tank. You can observe them much more closely in a smaller, almost bare tank, and treat as needed more effectively and more cost efficiently in a smaller tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Parasites like Velvet, Ich or larger parasites like Anchor Worm, Fish Lice, other. Velvet is the most difficult to see. Research how to find this on the fish.

Water quality: Wrong pH or rising ammonia are the two most common water quality problems that may make the fish flash. The whitened edges to the fins could be from ammonia burn.

Other: I am not sure what else could irritate them.


To prevent things like this, get a quarantine tank and hold fish for at least 30 days before putting them in the main tank. You can observe them much more closely in a smaller, almost bare tank, and treat as needed more effectively and more cost efficiently in a smaller tank.
I tested for ammonia and its pretty close to zero. In other news, there seems to be a white growth coming from the gills of my harlequins and the madagascar is very lethargic...seems to be on his last legs. I have a 5 gal tank from back in the day. I think Im going to set it up real fast with water from my current tank and just let them die off in there as opposed to dying in my main tank and potentially killing the rest of my fish
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Based on what I have read and symptoms I have observed, an internal parasite is the culprit. I have seen white stringy poop and this is a clear sign of the parasite from what I have read. Now my question is... could this potentially be from the freeze dried blood worms I recently started feeding? Or is it most likely from a newly introduced blue ram from petco... Hmm. The GBR appears to be one of the healthiest fish in the tank! I am confused.
 

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Lots of the freeze dried foods produce grey stringy poop.
Try to feed something else for a while. I like Tetra Prime, it is a nice astaxanthin red... so is the end product.

Many people claim freeze dried foods introduced disease.
I think more likely the extra ammonia produced by feeding freeze dried tubiflex etc. jeopardises the immune system, giving pathogens already in the tank, a foothold.
 

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With more definite answer on what is happening, I might go with a medicated food if they are still eating. But then I would also set up the QT for those who do show definite signs.
The QT can be pretty simple due to the way we want to treat sick fish. Moving the water is one way to avoid a sudden change and you are likely to not have a cycled tank. But it works because there are a number of different things from the normal tank. One is a small number of fish- we hope. Two is that we will want to feed only tiny amounts to see that they do eat and we want to do far more than normal water changes. Little food with lots of water changes means the cycle is less important as the pollution is reduced and removed. Bare bottom makes it easier to siphon out any uneaten food but do keep a constant watch and change lots of water. A few hiding places is often good. Something simple like a cup so that they can hide but you can also look at them well.
 

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Without reading too far into this thread this to me was a red flag:

SHORT VERSION: Fish are "scratching" on things (rubbing on leaves, etc and then swimming away) and have pale parts of fins which were not like that before.
I am not entirely sure but to me this seems to point towards parasites / disease.
 

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Based on what I have read and symptoms I have observed, an internal parasite is the culprit. I have seen white stringy poop and this is a clear sign of the parasite from what I have read. Now my question is... could this potentially be from the freeze dried blood worms I recently started feeding? Or is it most likely from a newly introduced blue ram from petco... Hmm. The GBR appears to be one of the healthiest fish in the tank! I am confused.
This is where things can get really confusing when we try to spot who carries a disease. We can often see the same in humans so let's talk that as we are more familiar?
A six year old goes to school without his measles shot, comes home with the disease and may feel bad but then the baby catches the measles and may die.
One of your fish may have had a disease but been able to show no big problems but when another fish is stressed or just more prone to disease for some reason, that fish may die from the same disease. Part of the problem for a shop to sort out fish with disease is that it doesn't always show.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Heres an update for everyone:

I set up a 5 gal QT tank, it was all I had. I put the harlequins in there along with the madagascar. I am down to 4 harlequins one died last night and another in the QT. I bought some melafin and dosed that in my main tank. I will be doing water changes every other day and will go to the store tomorrow to try and find some medicated food for parasite infection. Thanks for the help everyone
 
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