Treating Ich/Ick on Scaleless Fish SpeciesBy: jbeining75
The intent of this article is to discuss acceptable ways of treating ich on scaleless fish species and in invertebrate tanks. In a common tank without scaleless fish where ich occurs simply raising the temperature up to around 84 degrees and salting the tank with a general aquarium salt usually does the trick. In advanced or uncontrolled situations some resort to the malachite green treatment which is a cycle of doses intended to defeat the ich in its tomite (free swimming) stage.
To beat ich first we have to understand what it is and how it is commonly caused. Ich or, Ichthyophthirius multifiliis is a protozoan. It is actually the largest known ciliated protozoan that occurs on fish species. Ich appears on fish as a white patchy coloration almost like someone sprinkled salt on the fish. This is not the only way to determine that your tank or fish are possibly infested with ich. Other signs are lethargic behavior, labored breathing, hovering near or under the filter return, a mild loss of appetite, possibility of clamped fins, or most common flashing or rubbing up against the decorations in the tank. Common causes are uncycled tanks or new tank syndrome. Other common causes are not quarantining your fish prior to placing them into your main tank. Ich in its Trophozoites stage can burrow in the gills of the fish not allowing you to see the infestation when purchasing your fish. The biggest cause of ich is fish stress. Stress through netting, aggression, water quality, etc., will all effect the stress level of the fish. Unfortunetely, scaless fish and invertibrates are constintely on the substrate where the ich is first formed. This is why loaches and catfish are the most susceptable to ich infestations.
On normal fish species many treatments can be used. The most common is raising the temperature and salting the tank. This is bad for both invertebrates and scaleless fish species. Scaleless fish species will not tolerate any salt in their tanks and most invertebrates can not handle the high increase of heat that most try to achieve. So that moves us on to the next step, medications. There are an endless number of medications available from almost ever aquatic retailer out there from Jungle through API.
Malachite Green and Formalin: These two cures are often mixed together in products in the aquarium pharmaceutical world. Products like Quick-Cure, Rid Ich, and Ich Guard are the most common. The problem for scaleless fish and invertebrates is the malachite green. It is a very strong chemical used to kill fungus and parasites. It is toxic to humans if digested or breathed for long periods. Fish that are treated with malachite green should not be consumed by humans as the residue can cause fatal results. Malachite green stains silicone and decorations a greenish-blue color and is very strong. If treating scaleless fish species or invertebrates use only half the dose that is recommended and carefully monitor the fish in the tank for signs of struggling. If the fish appears to struggle remove it from the main tank and treat it in a quarantine tank with a lower dosage level.
Copper based medications: Copper based medications are all around bad for invertebrates and scaleless fish species. The possible fluctuation of kH and pH also is a huge worry for most aquarists. Products that use copper sulfate as active ingredients include Coppersafe and General Cure. The increased metal levels in the tank cause an alkalinity swing which in turn could cause lower kH levels allowing pH swings to occur. Fish that are not hardy can suffer from the protozoan as well as the increased stress of level fluctuations. Copper medications are best kept out of tanks with scaleless fish species or invertebrates.
Potassium Permanganate: Probably the least desirable method of all. It is extremely toxic to fish at high levels and repeated use has shown to effect normal gill functions in fish species. Flukes Control is a common product that uses potassium permanganate as an active ingredient. Chemically it is not actually a medicine as far as treatment is concerned. It is an oxidizing agent and will lower oxygen concentration, kill nitrifying bacteria, and most likely kill algae growth. Additional aeration is needed if used for any reason.
If treating scaleless fish for ich the easiest and safest treatment is to slightly raise your temperature to around 82 degrees to speed the three stage life cycle of the ich. Treat the tank with a medicine that states that it can be used in lower dosages, Never use medications that doesn´t states this as using these in lower dosages can cause increased resistence in the ich/ick. Use only ¼ to ½ of the for regular fish recommended dose for scaleless fish and closely monitor the fish for increased stress. Remember that ich once it detaches from the fish will fall to the gravel and form hundreds of new tomites. Removing the ich infested fish will not cure the problem. This is a disease where the main tank needs to be treated. Without treating the main tank a relapse of ich may occur. As always with medications use of an airstone is recommended as most meds are oxidizing and decrease oxygen levels in the aquarium.
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