He has a bulge near his anus for the past several weeks which appears to my wife and I to be ever so slowly growing. When there is strong lighting behind it, it appears to be translucent as if it is fluid perhaps... like a sack of liquid or something. It strikes us both that his behavior is also changing slowly -- toward less appetite and less activity.
I hope the photo provided exhibits the symtomology well enough. If not, here's more....
At first, given the location and translucency of it, I thought maybe it's a bladder infection or something? I couldn't find anything online that seemed similar, but I fed everyone peas for about a week to see if things might clear up. No dice.
I've had 2 of these guys for about 8 years now, so we're familiar with the odd behavior of "weather loaches", and the crazy things they do.... They've fooled us a million times looking like they're laying in some odd position seemingly dead. I'm also familiar with their feeding behavior. Over several weeks, this guy seems to be behaving increasingly as if his appetite has diminished significantly and as if he's become more lethargic. The past few days he's been hanging out in a corner behind and air hose & light wire, like they're holding him in place there (see photo).
He seems to keep trying to find his proper buoyancy, but the back end of him keeps sinking, and he seems distressed by that. He likes to get behind that air hose which seems to hold him in place. Else he likes to rest on top of a buried air stone and sort of Jacuzzi in the bubbles -- like they help him feel more buoyant. I'm ruling out a swim bladder issue, though, as from everything I've read on that with dojo loaches, that would be causing him to float too much, not sink too much.
My 8 years with these two have led me to find them very harty and resilliant, even if their behavior is often difficult to read. Because of that, I'm not sure how urgently we should be concerned, but I'd say on balance that he's not feeling well, and it's because of this mysterious bulge.
Soon before we first noticed this a couple months ago, I had an algea eater nearly as old as them which had become increasingly agressive. I had to evict him, but to get him out, I had to uproot my whole fully planted aquarium. That was tramatic to everyone to at least some extent, but it really churned up the substrait and restarted the nitrogen cycle all over again.
After a few weeks of nurturing the nitrogen cycle back to health, but still having persistent issues with water clarity (bacteria blooms), and thanks to a sweet sale at a pet store, I bumped the aqaurium from 20 gal to 30 gal, with a 50 gal capacity filter.
Currently water clarity is crytal clear and chemestry appears to be as well, though nitrates are high still. Water temp is "room temp", which is generally in the mid 70's F.
I would have to confess to having run the 20 gal tank beyond the bio-load I should have (2-3 goldfish as old as the dojos, 2 algae eaters (one got very large), a half dozen minnows and whatever snails could escape the dojos). Current residency is 2 dojos + 2 mature goldfish ... and some snails.
While correlation isn't the same as causation, the timing of events here appear suspect. I just whish I had a clue about what this bulge is and how concerned I should be. We're very fond of these kooky characters.
I would approach it this way:
Get the N-cycle under control. If the problem is NO2 or NH3 or NH4, then add more bacteria from a bottle that includes 'Nitrospira' species of bacteria. These are the actual species that really do the work. Do not waste your money on anything else.
If the problem is NO3, then increase volume and frequency of water changes until the NO3 stays under 10ppm.
Salt or epsom salt may help, buy raising the TDS, and this may help the fish to get rid of some of the excess fluid.
Start with a very low dose (1/2 teaspoon per 10 gallon) the first day, then that much again the second day. I would not use any more than this (total dose 1 teaspoon per 10 gallons) for Loaches or other fish that cannot handle salt very well.
Medicate. The problem is, you do not know if the dropsy is caused by bacteria, virus or some other agent. You might start with anti-biotics (target bacteria mostly, but some also target fungi).
Remember to keep up the water changes, and re-dose the tank with salt or epsom salt to maintain the dose, and the same for medicines.
When the treatment time is over, reduce the salt slowly- dose half dose for 2-3 water changes, then go to no added salt.
Happy fish keeping!
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