Please Help with Sick Clown Loach

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kgarcia
Posts: 2
Joined: Mon Aug 19, 2013 11:57 am

Please Help with Sick Clown Loach

Post by kgarcia » Mon Aug 19, 2013 4:01 pm

One of my clown loaches has been flashing on decorations since last Thursday. I'm trying to figure out if it is due to water quality issues or potentially parasites. No new fish have been introduced to the aquarium. These fish have been together for over ten years and were recently moved to this new tank about a month ago (It had fishless cycled for seven weeks beforehand).

At first I only had one AquaClear 110 filter, but after the one clown loach began acting funny I added a second AquaClear 110 to help with more biological filtration last Friday. The fish seem to be able to handle to extra current generated by the filter. I have 2 medium blue air stones in the tank to provide them with enough air. I am using the API Master liquid water quality test kit. The pH has been steady around 7.6, ammonia has dipped around (0.5ppm high to 0.1ppm low), and nitrite has around (0.75ppm high to 0.1ppm low). We had a storm recently hit and knock out our power for several days although we did have the tank running on a borrowed generator. The night the storm hit the filter didn't run for about six hours until we could hook up the generator. The temperature is steady at 77 degrees.

The clown loach flashes every few hours scratching itself on decorations 3-5 times. It will then act normal as if nothing is wrong and pick around in the gravel. The loach is eating fine even butting other fish out of the way to get to the food. Her gills don't appear red, but she is breathing fast (although I have read that clown loaches tend to breathe rapidly). She has also "yawned" occasionally which I have read can indicate gill irritation. She doesn't clamp all her fins, but she does sit at the bottom with her dorsal fin close to her back with all other fins out normally. Her body is all scratched up on the sides and top. The colors on her body are still there although she has grayed out some (she was like that before). I have done several water changes to bring the levels of ammonia and nitrites, but after the water changes she still flashes (I add Prime to help with the chlorine and chloramine).

None of the other fish including another clown loach are exhibiting these behaviors or even seem stressed. I have not added any new fish to this tank, so I don't think it is flukes, but her behavior matches the description of having flukes. If it is flukes wouldn't they spread quickly and infect the other fish? I'm not used to dealing with sick fish. The only disease I have ever dealt with is Ich. I'm really worried about her and I work from home so I am able to keep an eye on her. Any help would be very much appreciated. These fish mean the world to me.

Diana
Posts: 4675
Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2006 1:35 am
Location: Near San Franciso

Re: Please Help with Sick Clown Loach

Post by Diana » Tue Aug 20, 2013 1:28 am

Seeing ammonia or nitrite at any level suggests there is a problem with the nitrogen cycle bacteria. Perhaps some died during the power outage. They are high oxygen bacteria, and if the filter was not running for several hours some of the bacteria could die.
I would add some bottled bacteria that contain Nitrospira species of bacteria to bring the population back up. Do not waste money on any other species of bacteria. If the bottle does not say Nitrospira, it does not have the right species of bacteria.

Ammonia is an irritant, and the fish might flash, though excess slime coat is a more common reaction.
Many external parasites can make the fish flash, and some of these parasites can also live in the gills (Ich can, for example).
But if there has been absolutely NO contact, not even a shared plant, or ANYTHING for 10 years then I would find it hard to believe there is a parasite problem.

Keep up the water changes, always making sure the new water has the same GH, KH and TDS as the old water. You can read the label on the Prime to see if a slight extra could help with the ammonia. You could add some Prime a few days after a water change if the ammonia is starting to show a bit. That would lock it up for a day, perhaps give you some time to prepare for another water change.

When you say you were doing a fishless cycle on the tank for 7 weeks, were you adding ammonia to raise a good colony of bacteria? Were you following the fishless cycle that is a sticky here at Loaches?

The air bubbler does not add air to the tank. Almost none of the air in the bubbles actually dissolves in the water.
The increased surface movement caused by the bubbles, and the increased circulation by the rising column of water that is moved upward with the bubbles is a benefit, because it improves the gas exchange at the surface.

What size is the tank? I run the AC110 on tanks as small as 45 gallons, and would consider 2 of them for a tank of 75-125 gallons. I run one on a 72 gallon with a sump. (and I have some young Clowns in this tank).

While nitrite shows on the test add salt (sodium chloride) at the rate of 1 teaspoon per 20 gallons. This is a very low level, well tolerated by even salt sensitive fish. The chloride from the salt will block the nitrite from entering the gills. When you do a water change add salt just to the volume of the new water (ie, a 20 gallon water change would get 1 teaspoon of salt)
When the nitrifying bacteria have recovered (nitrite test reads zero) you can stop the salt and allow regular water changes to dilute and eventually remove it.
38 tanks, 2 ponds over 4000 liters of water to keep clean and fresh.

Happy fish keeping!

kgarcia
Posts: 2
Joined: Mon Aug 19, 2013 11:57 am

Re: Please Help with Sick Clown Loach

Post by kgarcia » Tue Aug 20, 2013 10:49 am

Hi Diana! Thank you so much for your reply. I've been doing water testing every 3 hours or so. Yesterday ammonia was around 0.25ppm and nitrite was around 0.1ppm. This morning I tested the water and everything read zero (no false reading on nitrite I know to look for that).

I thought it might be possible that some of the bacteria may have died off. I was wary of the bacteria in a bottle products because this is technology that I have not dealt with before. When I go to the store today I will try to look for a bottle that contains Nitrospira.

The fishless cycling was performed according to instructions from several sources (I didn't find this website until recently). The main one I followed was: http://www.aquariumadvice.com/forums/f1 ... 48283.html
I dosed the tank with pure Ammonia from ACE hardware with no soap, dyes, or perfumes.The cycle was completed within seven weeks which I think is in the ball park of where it should have been.

The tank is 55 gallons and now has 2 AquaClear 110s. There are only six fish in the tank: 3 balas, 2 clown loaches, and 1 red tail black shark. Good information on what the air stones actually do for the tank. If I see the nitrite creep up again I will use your salt method. I had no idea salt could stop the nitrite from entering the gills.

She doesn't seem to be producing excess mucus at all and doesn't have any white spots to indicate Ich. They haven't had contact with any new fish the only new contact would be the new filters and gravel when I originally setup this new tank for them. I've found in a few places that flukes can be dormant in tank water until a fish becomes weak. Do you know if this is true? I sold my parasitology book like a dope not even sure if that information would have been in there anyway. Maybe the weaken cycle from the storm made her weak then she feel ill to a parasite? Grasping at straws, but its a thought.

Yesterday afternoon the clown loach was flashing so much I did some research and medicated the tank for potential parasites. I added Tetra Parasite Guard which claims to be safe with the biofilter and scaleless fish. It is broad spectrum with the following medicine: praziquantel, diflubenzuron, metronidazole, and acriflavine. I dissolved 5 tablets (1 tablet= 10 gal) in a bucket of tank water before pouring it into the tank. The carbon filters were removed prior to medication. This medicine was added at 4:10pm yesterday afternoon.

First observations indicate the other fish are fine just confused by the cloud. The clown loach seemed to perk up after an hour or two with the medication although she was still flashing (it doesn't appear to be nearly as violent as before). When she sits her dorsal is up most of the time. She only flashes on her right side trying to target the gills it looks like. Sometimes she even will lean towards her left side so a Bala shark can gently look or even peck her right gill. I have never seen them do this before.

She is still eating fine as are the other fish. If I did the wrong thing I can do a water change and put carbon back in, but right now the fish seem like they're doing okay. Medicine doesn't seem to have hurt them or the biofilter with ammonia and nitrite both reading zero this morning (even yesterday evening). I don't think the medication is messing with the test kit. The water appears clear in the tube and the chemicals seem to react the same way they always have.

I'm sorry about the length of the post Diana. I truly appreciate your help and insight.

Diana
Posts: 4675
Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2006 1:35 am
Location: Near San Franciso

Re: Please Help with Sick Clown Loach

Post by Diana » Wed Aug 21, 2013 10:24 am

You are right that parasites can be less active when the fish are healthy, and the stress of temperature changes or some ammonia or nitrite can weaken them just enough that a parasite can get a toe hold on them. I think you are doing fine treating for parasites.

If you are interested in more info about how salt protects against nitrite google Brown Blood Disease. You will find lots of info about how nitrite is toxic. When you combine the word Fish with Brown Blood Disease you can find a lot of info about the use of salt and other chlorides as prevention.

The basic story on nitrifying bacteria is this:
They used to think they had identified the bacteria that do the work of removing ammonia and nitrite. These bacteria entered a resting or spore stage, so were easy to bottle, store and ship.
Unfortunately these are not the right bacteria. They may get going in a tank, but they do not live long. Some of them are from sewer treatment plants, where the ammonia levels is much higher. The trace amounts in our tanks is not enough to keep them going.
About 15 years ago Dr. Tim Havonec identified the correct species of nitrite-to-nitrate bacteria and was making strides in identifying the ammonia-to-nitrite bacteria. Ammonia-to-nitrite species were IDed a few years later. These bacteria do not enter a resting stage, are harder to package, ship and store. But the company he worked for figured out how to do it, and they sold Bio Spira for fresh water and marine aquariums. Things changed in the company, and now the fresh water version is sold by several companies, but no longer named Bio Spira.
The correct species can be found in Tetra Safe Start, Dr. Tim's One and Only (the same Dr. Tim Hovanec- he has his own company), Microbe Lift's Nite Out II, and perhaps others. But the easiest thing is to read the label. If it does not include Nitrospira, do not waste your money.
38 tanks, 2 ponds over 4000 liters of water to keep clean and fresh.

Happy fish keeping!

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