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Mystery illness and death.

816 Views 9 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  PlantedRich
This is long... the TLDR is parameters all in check, diet is varied and high quality, Serpae and Cories sick, they are my only S.A. fish other than my Bristlenose.

Listlessness followed by signs of infection then death, symptoms have included paleness, Popeye, slime coat issues, dropsy, rapid breathing then death. It moves slowly in my Serpae, Pygmy Cories seem to go quickly with frantic erratic swimming and then death.

Treatment has been more water changes, Stressguard, UV.

The long version....

I somewhat suspect NTD, or some kind of mycobacteria.

The only fish affected seem to be Amazonian. I tried treating the first two sick Serpae in a QT tank with Focus and Kanaplex but the stress caused death overnight vs weeks in the main tank.

At this point I'm doing my best to avoid further cross contamination by soaking tools in bleach water then prime and running scalding hot water through the hoses for several minutes between water changes. The two problem tanks are getting water changes with dedicated buckets and hoses.

Parameters are always 0,0, <20. PH is 7-8 depending on hardscape and CO2 in the tank. Every tank gets at least 50% water change weekly.

Tank 1 60 gallons lightly stocked semi aggressive/nippy fish. 4 Kribs, 3 SAE, 10 Leopard Danios, 1 female BNP, 5 (about to be 4 Serpae)

78°, healthy plants, UV running in canister, DIY co2 with citric acid and baking soda, drop checker is turquoise which is just enough to speed up plant growth.

The Serpae are dying off one at a time, they get listless, then show signs of infection and then die. They looked rough when my LFS got them in, but she held them for several weeks and quarantined and treated and they were much improved when I brought them home.

This has been slowly happening for months and at this point I'm thinking I need to cull them to avoid further contamination or spreading it to the other fish. I really hate the thought though.

No other deaths or illness in tankmates. The danios always have fin damage but it heals quickly and they are happy and very (VERY) active.

I've been doing twice weekly 50% changes and dosing Stressguard at full strength with no improvement in the most obviously sick Serpae. He's still eating and schooling but has peeling looking slime coat and a raised white lump that has been slowly getting bigger.

It isn't fuzzy or stringy like fungus or columnaris.

Tank 2 20 long, 8 Boraras Maculatus, lots of RCS, some pygmy Cories, 2 Oto.
76° PH 7.5, was heavily planted with lots of Mopani and Manzanita. DIY C02 with champagne yeast. Drop checker was bright green but I've backed it down to turquoise.

The Cories aren't out and about much and the dying ones start swimming erratically and breathing heavily then die within a few hours.

I had a small school of 6 Cories and they hid constantly, after months of waiting I was finally able to add 12 more. Again my LFS quarantined them, they were all healthy and active and I went ahead and added them without further quarantine, which I know is risky. I lost a couple in the days immediately after introduction and they were all still hiding a lot so I've been fairly hands off with the tank, only doing water changes and spot treating some BBA with excel.

The tank is heavily planted and has lots of driftwood, after losing 2 Cories last week I pulled the worst affected plants, stopped using Excel and I've dropped the water level to increase surface agitation.

I lost two more on Tuesday.

I started dosing Stressguard at half dose last week but stopped because my RCS looked pale. Added carbon and turned on the UV in their canister. At this point I can only find about 8 of the Cories.

(I just found another dead one while typing this out. The shrimp colony seems thinner too. I have no idea how many Cories I have at this point and I'm considering taking out more of the shrimp, plants, and driftwood and dosing.... something??)

Tank 3
29 gallons 15 CPD, 6 cheap endler hybrids, just had the first deaths last week since being set up in early September.
The CPD started spawning and I lost 1 male and my 2 biggest females. No signs of problems except for a few light patches that looked like minor injuries and then quickly death.
Head counts every morning, everyone is bright and hungry.

Tank 4, 20 gallons low tech, 2 dwarf puffers. They are fat and sassy. I'm no longer feeding snails picked out of other tanks and have gone to bloodworms and BBS, I just ordered a daphnia culture.

Tank 5
5.5 gallon low tech jungle with 3 new Sparkling Gourami. I had planned on going back for the rest and giving them the 20 while splitting up my puffers. At this point everyone is staying where they are.

Tank 6, 4 gallon Betta, he's lazy and a poor swimmer but very happy.

Tank 7, 55 with young 4 fancy goldfish, they are my sweet wet pets, I'm most concerned about contamination here, they get water changes first and have their own cleaning tools.

Possibly unrelated but last December I had a small owie on my hand that didn't want to heal as well as a rash on both hands and forearms a couple weeks later. I used peroxide several times followed up with Mupiciron ointment for 10 days and water proof Band-Aids. I actually thought I was allergic to prime but the rash lasted about 10 days. I use a squeeze pump to start siphons now and cover any cuts with water proof Band-Aids.
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Sorry to hear you're having trouble. Things can get kind of mysterious at times. You don't mention the source of the water you are using for changes. Could it be that something has changed there? I found years ago that the parameters of the tap water where I'm at has some fairly significant seasonal swings. I'm using RO water now for that reason.
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I'm in a rural water district, I actually called them to check and they haven't done anything different to the supply. I checked the tap too and no nitrates or anything weird. They don't fluoridate or use chloramine.

I do have a package of phosphate remover and a package of polyfilter sitting here waiting for any troubles from spring run off.

I've considered an RO system simply because our water is so hard, but instead I'm just trying to choose fish that can thrive in harder water, especially in bigger tanks.

Bump: I just more driftwood and plants out of the 20. No more dead bodies and I counted 10 Cories. I suction cupped a shower caddy in the tank and put in some zucchini, hopefully it will catch a bunch of shrimp and I'm going to put them in my plant only bubble bowl.
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I don't see it mentioned but would assume that the water is treated with chlorine since not chloramine? You do use some form of de chlor? Sorry if that is totally offbase. It can sometimes be a little obvious thing that gets to us.
Meanwhile can you give us more info when you say they look like they have infection? How does this show to you? I am leaning toward it being series of different diseases rather than one single item. This can make it much more confusing to sort out so I might lean toward picking one type of fish or one type of death and look for a single cure for that rather than a total. I also find it helpful to NOT go for any major new solutions like phosphate removal, etc. as new items/methods almost automatically mean new doubts and potential for disrupting the normal of a tank.
I sometimes find the best cure is good clean water and then hold it steady even though not as the stated "ideal" for a given type of fish. I find the fish more able to adapt to even the poor conditions if the tank stays stable. Kind of like the human equivilent of running in and out of AC on a hot day.We can live with either but not when it keeps changing?
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Let me try to get a picture of the worst Serpae in my 60.

In my 20 I pinched off the worst Algae covered leaves, gave their Anubias and driftwood a good scrub and pulled out the AR mini all together. In the process I counted 10 or 11 Cories so it isn't as dramatic as I thought. The little ones I found look totally fine. My Boraras and 2 Otos are happy and healthy. The Cories have no symptoms other than erratic somersaults going pale and trouble staying upright, then death. I've stopped spot treating with Excel, ran carbon and turned on their UV.

I'm using prime to dechlorinate, no other additives except for the Stress Guard I was trying. The only pH adjusting is with wood/almond leaves/CO2 and even that is negligible.

I have the Phosban and polyfilter in case parameters go haywire with spring/summer planting and run off into the lake the water comes from. I would be doing water changes from a dedicated pre filtered trash can at that point.

Here are some pictures of the Sick Serpae, the camera makes the white parts on his head look worse than it is. The second picture the colors are more accurate.H
e is behind the SAE and you can see the white lump pretty clearly.

He's had the white lump on his tail for over a month with very little change and the peeling looking stuff on his head for maybe a week. It looks slime coat related rather than actual deeper injury. There is a second Serpae that is looking a little bloated and his side has a greyish sheen, like he might start the peeling too.
The other fish are all fine, one of my danios has regrown nearly an entire tail fun while this guy is slowly getting worse.

The stupid Danios bother other danios, Kribs Chase Kribs, the SAE are peaceful and the Pleco whips her tail about her food but otherwise is peaceful.

No one bothers the Serpae but being down to 5 is causing them to hide by the filter most of the time.

I've spent hours today sitting in front of the 20 just watching and the Cories are actually out and about, swimming in the midwater column. They look wonderful, from 2 feet away, nice color, round bellies, fins are good. This is more than I've seen them in weeks, I'm cautiously optimistic.


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Are you using the same equipment like hoses, buckets and even nets on all your tanks? How are you sterilizing your equipment after use?
It is probably too late to avoid cross contamination since I was using the same diy python for changes, always doing the 60 with the weird Tetras last.

I've now only been using it for filling and both running scalding water through and on it before changes. I've also switched up my routine so that I do maintenance on different days (which is a huge pain) and bleach then prime all scrapers and nets after use.

I'm also making sure I wash my hands with unscented soap and dry them completely after having hands in tanks.
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I do maintenance on different days (which is a huge pain) and bleach then prime all scrapers and nets after use.
I used to sterilize tools and in the end gave up, I now have a set of tools for each tank, Buckets, nets, hoses, each tank has its own set and I never share anything between my tanks including plants without taking precautions.

I have a friend who about 4 years ago spread something to his tanks that killed most of his fish. And we are talking lots of fish here, He had a 6 foot tank with over 100 neons in it, and another 6 footer with over 100 Rummy nose tetras.

A single drop of water is all it takes.
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I pulled all the Serpae out into a 20 gallon Tub. Im trying to decide if I want to I euthanize or try to medicate, if nothing else I might get some information to treat any other fish that come down with symptoms.

I have focus, Metro, Kanaplex, Stressguard, Paraguard, Tetra lifeguard all in one, and levimasole.

I'm thinking maybe Metro or Paraguard since it is antiseptic and antifungal.
I'm not a good one for info on meds as I do work on keeping healthy but then do not go far on treating those who do fall with something. My experience is that I'm so poor at getting the correct disease to choose the correct med that is is just a more practical matter to lose a fish now and then and not buy the meds. Really harsh way of thinking, perhaps but it seems to work better for us old farm sorts who look at animals from a practical, rather than emotional aspect. I certainly have no argument with those who view it differently, though. But I do often let others advise on meds. Pimafix and Melafix on the two I normally do use but they have pretty limited use for real cases.
You may be on the way to working the problem out if things look better??? But a small idea on the PH might help?
When we have hard water, it will be very difficult to change the PH as the GH/KH does "buffer" the water. Buffer, by definition means it will resist changes. That is one of the main reasons, I do not try to change mine when I have the high GH/KH. Working with pools/spas has shown me how hard itis to change and actually keep the PH changed so it becomes more a hazard to my fish than any benefit. I go with your method and try to sort out the fish who do well with the water rather than fight nature to try to change the water and all the time the fish keep trying to chase a changing/moving target.
But on the good side, hard water does make it easy to use about anything as decor due to the buffering. I can use almost any wood or rocks I like without much worry about the water parameters. Even limestone doesn't change the PH if the water is running in limestone already when in nature!
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