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Sick Platy (Columnaris?); Salt Bath?

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I brought four platies home from the pet store yesterday and put them in my quarantine tank (5.5 gallons with a mature sponge filter and some loose plants). They appeared fine and were active and lively, but I noticed today one of them has slowed down and has some white, fuzzy-looking growth around her mouth. I did a 10% water change immediately and, after a quick search, it seems like it's columnaris (pictures at the end, feel free to correct me on this).

I don't have any medications on me at the moment, so I prepared a salt bath for her for the sake of doing something right now (1 tsp salt in 2 cups of tank water). I left her in the bath for 20 minutes before putting her back. She appears to be a bit more active now, though it still looks like someone took a cheese grater to her mouth.

Should I continue with the salt baths? Should I treat the other three fish even though they don't exhibit any symptoms? I'd prefer to stay away from chemical medications if possible.

The tank is heated to 70F. If I unplug the heater, it'll drop to about 66 (I've read columnaris doesn't like cold). I'll have water parameters tomorrow.

Here are some pictures of her before (bottom picture), during (3rd), and after (first two pics) the salt bath:
http://www.imgur.com/a/M8A7L
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First order of business; isolate the infected platy as quickly as possible, if you can. Columnaris is quite contagious and some strains can kill quickly...when I first got my Aphyosemion striatum killifishes, one of the males went from 'cottony mouth' to 'dead as a doornail' within 24 hours.

Secondly, you are going to want to get some sort of antibiotic quickly...melafix worked for me to prevent the remaining 3 A. striatum from catching the disease or (if they already had it) from dying from it. I am not sure if a salt bath helps with columnaris.

Third, you are on the right track with keeping the temps down...columnaris kills even more quickly at higher temps.
 

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Platies are quite tolerant of salt. Not sure if it helps against Columnaris, but I would salt the water in the Q-tank.
1 tsp/5 gallons each day for 3 days. The dose will reach 1 tablespoon per 5 gallons. That is a lot of salt for fresh water fish, and the plant trimmings won't like it, but it may help the Platies.

Get the antibiotics going. Melafix and Pimafix can help as long as the infection is just on the surface, but they do not enter the fishes' system, so cannot help with internal infections. Columnaris gets inside, too, not just a surface problem. It is a Gram negative bacteria.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you both for the replies.

I was able to isolate the one platy in a 1 gallon container before leaving for work this morning, but by the time I got back, she had passed.
I've done another 10% water change on the QT tank and I've unplugged the heater. I added a teaspoon of dissolved salt to the tank, but I'm not planning on going farther with salt treatment at this point. I read that salt might not be effective against columnaris unless it's greater than SG 1.010, and I'm pretty sure I'll end up killing my plants at that point.

I'll be able to get some Melafix tomorrow, and I'll start treating the tank then.

So, one last question, then: I have a marimo ball in the tank with them that I was quarantining as well. Is there anything special I should do to this to make sure it's safe for my tank after I finish treating with Melafix?
 

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Marimo ball:
Isolate it in a tank with no fish. Many diseases dies out without a host.
If it will tolerate the treatment (I am sure it is OK with Melafix) then leave it in the tank being treated.

No matter what outcome, I would keep the fish in quarantine (and the Marimo ball) for one month after you have cleared all medicines from the tank just to be sure they are not carrying anything else.
 
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