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Treating Ich in the Home Aquarium

Melissa here.

So, you have figured out by the white spots and scratching that your fish have ich. Now what? Depending on the fish there are different treatments available including Copper, Quick Cure, Kick Ich, and Kent RxP to name a few. There are also other methods besides using chemicals like increasing the temperature and decreasing specific gravity. To figure out what direction to start treating it all depends on what is in the tank and what the water quality is. If the water quality is poor (high levels of ammonia or nitrite) then medications are pretty much useless and will cause more harm than good.

For tetras and other scaleless fish such as catfish, loaches, elephant nose, I usually recommend increasing the temperature and use a product called Quick Cure. The active ingredients in quick cure are malachite green and formalin. Make sure you follow the directions and only use a half dose. When at all possible this treatment should be added to a quarantine tank only.

For other community fish such as mollies, platys, swordtails, rainbows, gouramis, and cichlids I also recommend using quick cure. You can do the full dose with these fish. Copper can also be used but must be used with extreme caution. Copper must be monitored because there is a fine line between killing the parasite and killing the fish being treated. These medications should only be used in a quarantine tank. Medications will kill plants and inverts such as snails and shrimp.

For saltwater fish, again, Quick Cure is my medication of choice if used in a quarantine tank with no inverts. Copper can also be used but some fish are very sensitive to it. Increasing the temperature a few degrees and decreasing the specific gravity to 1.019 over the period of a few days can help speed up the life cycle making the medication more effective.

For a saltwater reef tank or a fish only tank with inverts you can give Kick Ich a try. The active ingredient is 5-nitroimidazoles. This should only be done as a last resort if the fish cannot be taken out of the main tank. I have gotten back mixed results with using this product though. Some people say it works great while others say it did nothing. I am assuming that if it is caught early enough and the fish only have a few spots then the medication is effective and is enough to boost the fish’s immune system enough to fight it off and make a full recovery. However, if the fish is covered with ich the medication is just not strong enough to save the fish. Another product out there is Kent RxP. The active ingredients in this product are Deionized water, natural plant extracts, pepper, stabilized vitamin c, stabilizers.

To prevent ich from entering your main tank it is advised to quarantine all new fish for at least a month. If in that period of time your fish develops some kind of illness it should be treated accordingly and the time clock should start over. Once the fish has been symptom free for a month you can be fairly sure you are not going to introduce a disease into your display tank.

Feel free to email us with any ich questions you may have!

An Aquarist’s Glossary of Terms

Hi, Eileen here. There are a lot of different terms and phrases, used in reference to saltwater and freshwater aquariums alike, that may be unfamiliar to some aquarists or that you might come across in books, magazines or your local fish store like That Fish Place/ That Pet Place. I thought it might be beneficial to place a glossary of common terms as a reference. Here are some of the most common terms used in the aquarium trade that may be confusing to someone just starting out or beginning to explore the hobby. Keep in mind that they may have different meanings or may be used differently depending on the region or the aquarist you may be speaking to.

Biological terms:

  • Barbel: the “whiskers” or whisker-like appendages around the face and mouth of some fish.
  • Benthic: Benthic organisms live on, in, or attached to the bottom. These organisms include corals, crabs, starfish, cucumbers and worms.
  • Breeding styles: There are several different breeding styles common in aquarium fish and invertebrates.
    • Livebearer: Livebearers give birth to live young that are fully or nearly fully formed and often resemble miniature adults. Guppies, swordtails and seahorses are a few well-known livebearers.
    • Mouthbrooder: Mouthbrooders hold their eggs and eventually their young in their mouths until the young are ready to live on their own. The parent holding the young often does not eat during this time. Some cichlids and saltwater cardinalfish are mouthbrooders.
    • Egglayer: This is the breeding style that most people are familiar with. The female fish will lay a clutch of eggs and the male will fertilize the eggs after they are released. Most parents will guard their eggs during this time. Freshwater angelfish and saltwater clownfish are common egg-layers.
    • Eggscatterer: Egg-scatterers show little to no parental care for their young and will randomly scatterer the eggs across the substrate or vegetation. They often may eat their eggs and fry if not removed from the site. Tetras, danios, and rasboras are all egg-scatterers.
    • Bubblenesting: Gouramis and bettas are well-known bubble-nesters. The male will build a ring or nest of bubbles at the surface of the tank or plants and will defend other fish, including the female who laid the eggs, from getting close to the next.
    • Eggburying: Annual fish like killifish will bury their eggs in muddy substrate in the wild where they remain dormant throughout the dry season and until the next rainy season. These fish are typically short-lived and only have a lifespan of one or two seasons.
  • Cichlid: Cichlids (pronounced SICK-lids) are a group of fish known for being some of the most aggressive and territorial. They are native to distinct regions and many species have limited range. Cichlids are generally divided into “Old World” and “New World” groups.
    • Old World Cichlids: These cichlids are those found generally in the eastern hemisphere, most notably the African Cichlids found in the African Rift Lakes Lake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria basin. This group also includes West African, Madagascar and Asian cichlids. These are typically found in very specific water conditions and should not usually be mixed with other more docile tropical fish.
    • New World Cichlids: These are also collectively referred to as South and Central American cichlids but may also include some found in southern North America. Many are large and aggressive, but there are also dwarf species and some that are rather docile.
  • Coral: Coral refers to a very large group of invertebrates in the family Cnidaria. They are very widespread in appearance, habitat, requirements and lifestyle, but are only found in saltwater environments. This group can further be dividing into LPS, SPS, and Soft Corals.
    • Large Polyp Stony Corals (LPS): These corals have hard skeletons covered with fleshy tissue that often can make the coral look like a plant or anemone. These corals are found in a variety of environments and are often not as sensitive as their SPS cousins. They feed through a combination of photosynthesis from algae in their tissue and filter feeding from the water column. This is not technically a scientific classification, but is used by hobbyists as a convenient way of dividing corals.
    • Small Polyp Stony Corals (SPS): These corals have a more rigid appearance with very small polyps or thin tissue covering their skeletons. They live primarily on reefs and most get the majority of their nutrition from the algae in their tissue. These corals are very popular amongst hobbyists for propogation and “fragging”. Again, like LPS corals, this is not an official scientific classification.
    • Soft Corals: Also known as leather corals, the vast majority of these do not have a rigid skeleton, though there are a few exceptions, like Heliopora. They filter-feed or absorb most of their nutrition from the water and can live in a wide range of water conditions.
  • Crustaceans: Crustaceans are a group of invertebrates characterized by their insect-like appearance, hard exoskeleton that they must “molt” or shed to grow, and segmented bodies. Common aquarium crustaceans are shrimp, crabs and lobsters.
  • Cyanobacteria: Cyanobacteria (“cyano” or “slime algae”) is a bacteria commonly mistaken for algae and can be green, brown, red, black or blue. It is considered an aquarium nuisance and usually will bloom when water quality or lighting is poor. It is most common in saltwater aquariums, but can also be found in freshwater aquariums at times.
  • Diet: Diet refers to what an animal will normally eat in the wild. Five main diet or feeding types are common in aquarium:
    • Herbivore: Herbivores eat plants and plant matter almost exclusively.
    • Carnivore: Carnivores are meat-eaters and feed on very little plant matter.
    • Omnivore: Omnivores eat both plants and animals in their nature diet. Some may eat more plants than meat or vice versa.
    • Planktivore: Plantkivores feed on very small plants and animals in the water column. They may actively search out this food or may filter feed by sifting through the water column and feeding on whatever they find there.
  • Photosynthesis: Some invertebrates have algae known as zooxanthallae living in their tissue which produces proteins through photosynthesis. The animal then feeds off of the by-product of these symbiotic algae.
    • Diurnal: Diurnal organisms are active primarily during the day or in daylight.
  • Fin types: Each fin and body region on a fish is named and the common or scientific name of the fish may refer to markings on or around these fins. Knowing the names of the fins can also help in identifying fish or diseases. Not all of these fins are found on every fish and there are several other minor fins found in some groups.
    • Dorsal: The dorsal fin runs along the back and spine of the fish. The dorsal side of the fish also refers to this top half or the region around its back. This fin is used to help stabilize the fish while swimming.
    • Pectoral: Pectoral refers to the chest of the fish or the fins on either side of the body just behind the gills. These fins are used mostly in steering the fish, but also help to propel it through the water.
    • Peduncal: The peduncal or caudal peduncle is the narrow area between the main body of the fish and the tail.
    • Pelvic: Pelvic fins are paired and are found under the pectoral fins on the lower part or “belly” of the fish. They are used to help stop or turn the fish and to move vertically through the water column. Some fish like gobies have fused pelvic fins that act like a suction cup and help fix the fish onto a surface.
    • Anal: This fin is located on the bottom of the fish just in front of the tail. It is also used to help stabilize the fish. In male livebearers, this fin is modified into the pointed gonopodium and is used to fertilize the female.
  • Invertebrate: An invertebrate is any animal without a backbone. This group includes snails, shrimp, crabs, corals, octopuses, clams, starfish, urchins and many more animals.
  • Lateral Line: The Lateral Line is a sensory organ found primarily in fish. The Lateral Line can be seen as a groove running the length of the body on most fish and is used to detect movement in the water, even from great distances. Schooling behaviors and the quick movement and reflexes seen in some fish are thought to be related to this organ. Some fish can be identified by markings around the Lateral Line and some diseases like Head and Lateral Line Erosion (HLLE) are associated with it as well.
  • Nematocyst: Nematocysts are stinging cells found in the invertebrate phylum Cnidaria (anemones, jellyfish, corals and other invertebrates). The cell is “spring-loaded” – when the trigger is activated, the cell springs open and injects a harpoon-like projection into the target. This is a defense in most animals but some fish like jellyfish use this as a passive way to catch and disable their prey.
  • Nocturnal: Nocturnal organisms are active primarily at night.
  • Operculum: Operculum is Latin for “little lid”. In fish, this is the bony plate that covers the gills. In snails, this is the hard trapdoor that protects that snail when it retracts into its shell.
  • Plankton: Plankton and planktonic organisms do not swim against the flow of the water but rather travel with the flow. Most plankton is very tiny and is a primary food of filter-feeding organisms like corals and feather dusters, but other planktonic organisms like jellyfish and even the very large Ocean Sunfish can be much larger in size.
  • Photoperiod: The photoperiod is the length of day and night an organisms is exposed to and their reaction to it. An improper photoperiod can affect the health and activity of aquarium fish, invertebrates and plants.
  • Photosynthesis: Photosynthesis is the process by which a plant (including algae) uses carbon dioxide and sunlight to produce organics like sugars and gives off oxygen as a by-product. Some bacteria like cyanobacteria also use photosynthesis.
  • Scales: Most fish are covered with rigid scales for protection. These scales vary with the type of fish. Fish like sharks have scales also known as “dermal denticles” for their tooth-like structure. Other fish have scales with either a smooth outer edge (cycloid), or scales with a serrated edge (ctenoid).
  • Scientific name: The scientific name of an organism is the name assigned to it by scientists and taxonomists to be used as the “official” and universal name for that organism. In contrast, the common name can vary between countries, languages, regions and from aquarist to aquarists. Scientific names are typically written in italics while common names are often written with quotation marks.
  • Sexual Dimorphism: Sexually dimorphic animals have physical characteristics that differentiate between males and females of the same species. The difference can be subtle (a specific marking or size difference) or very obvious (completely different coloration).
  • Venomous: A venomous organism injects a toxin into its prey, either as a defense or as a way to disable their prey. This differs from poisonous organisms whose toxin must be ingested or absorbed.
  • Zooxanthallae: These tiny algae cells live within the tissue of other organisms like corals and anemones. The larger animals or colony provides the zooxanthallae with a host and the zooxanthallae provides the host animal with energy from photosynthesis. A coral may “bleach” or eject all of the zooxanthallae from its tissue if stressed, often resulting in the death of the coral.

I’ll be back with some other terms that may be useful for those who are new to the hobby in future posts!

Synodontis Catfish for the African Cichlid Tank

Jason here. Working at That Fish Place, I have many people ask me about bottom feeders that they can put into a tank with their African Cichlids.  Since cichlids tend to be aggressive, it can be difficult to find suitable tankmates.  A great solution to this problem is adding a Synodontis catfish species. 

There are many species of Synodontis that grow to various sizes.  Synodontis are great because they are often found in many of the same locations as the cichlids. One of my personal favorites is Synodontis petricola, often referred to as Pygmy Synodontis among hobbyists.  They are a relatively small, in comparison to the other members of the genus, maxing out at around five inches.  This catfish is native to Lake Tanganyika, in Africa, which is part of the group of lakes commonly referred to as the African Rift Lakes and has a pH ranging from 7.0-8.5.  Their coloration is usually brown with black spots.  Their fins are black with highly defined white trim.  Dietary choices consist mostly of meaty foods, but they will also pick at algae from time to time.

Another excellent choice for those with an Afican cichlid tank is Synodontis multipunctata, also from Lake Tanganyika.  In their natural environment, their preferred pH ranges from 7.8 – 8.5.  They have a similar appearance to the Pygmy Synodontis, only with less defined white trim on the fins and a larger max size, as in the aquarium they grow to approximately 8 inches in length.  They prefer tanks with a lot of dark places to hide out.  Like the petricola, they are omnivorous and are known to pick at algae along with their main diet of meaty foods.  They can usually be found under the common name Cuckoo Synodontis, though petricola also shares that common name.

Our most commonly sold Synodontis is a tropical species that tends to swim upside down.  It gets its common name, Upside-Down Synodontis Catfish because of this odd style of swimming.  Its scientific name is Synodontis nigriventris.  Unlike the prior two catfish noted, this one won’t do as well in with the African Cichlids, but makes an excellent addition to tanks with a lower pH, ranging from 6.0 – 7.5.  Full grown they will only reach about 4 inches, and they are active and interesting to observe.  They can be kept with most tropical fish, but they have been known to cause some problems with the smaller tetras.

There are many other many possibilities, when looking for an interesting bottom dwelling species to add to your home aquarium.  There are many different colors and sizes.  Come in to see us or drop us an e-mail at Marinebio@thatpetplace.com if you need any help or advice in choosing a species.

Fish Husbandry in a New Aquarium – Common Aquarium Questions

The Marine Bio staff That Fish Place gets a lot of questions about husbandry of fish and inverts in aquariums. When adding any new inhabitant to an aquarium we recommend researching the conditions, max size, and temperament of the species you are interested in to ensure that it will be a good fit for your tank and the other creatures you may already be keeping. And, as always, quarantining new additions in a separate aquarium is highly recommended.  If in doubt, we’re always here to answer any questions you may have so you and your aquarium continue to stay happy!

 One question recently submitted was from Al in New York:

 I’m going to be starting up my 55 gallon set-up with blue rams. My questions are what will make good tank mates? What water conditioners might I need? Should I use live plants, and if so which do you recommend? How many rams should I add?

 Marine Bio Responded:

There are several fish you can keep with rams. Lemon tetras in a school of 6-10 would be nice. Serpae tetras in a large school of 8 to 10, or Brilliant rasboras in a similar school would also work well. These are fish (introduced gradually) that I would start with once the tank is established. Rams should not be added to the tank for at least 2 to 3 months after the introduction of your first fish. So you can maybe start with 6 Serpaes or Brilliant rasboras, and let the tank run for with nothing else added until the cycle is complete.

During this time, you can certainly add plants if you wish, but do not add more fish. I am a proponent of live plants in aquariums. They make for a beautiful and healthy environment, and many fish will do very well in a planted tank that is similar to their native waters. Plants that you can add may include Rotala, Ruffled swords, Ozelot swords, dwarf sagittaria, and Bacopa. These are all nice plants to start with, and there are others you may prefer, it is all according to taste and the lighting and conditions you present. Just make sure you add Flourish Iron or a similar product to your tank to help your plants to stay healthy.  

After you cycle your tank with the tetras or rasboras, you can add some Corydoras Catfish in school of 5 or 6 to help keep the bottom clean. Some smaller pleco species may also be considered.  Rubbernose plecos, for example, are great algae eaters in planted aquariums, as are Bristlnose and Medusa plecos. Gold nugget plecos and Queen Arabesque plecos would also work, and they are really attractive. When you are ready to add rams, I would think a small group of 5 or 6 would work out great for you, maybe 1-2 males and the rest females.

Water conditions? Well, rams prefer warm, soft water. So you want your temperature to be in the range of 80 to 82 degrees, and your pH should be around 6.5 to 6.8. You may need a buffer to maintain the keep the water at this pH and there are several available to choose from and keep on hand for water changes and maintenance including Seachem Discus Buffer.

Recommended Meds for Arowanas & Transferring Saltwater Tanks – Common Aquarium Questions

Back with some more FAQs sent to our Marine Bio staff.

Thurman wrote:

I’m raising a baby silver Arowana.  I would like to know, what meds do you recommend to keep in stock, How effective are vitamins, and are any water treatments needed besides prime or salt ? What is black water?

Marine Bio answered:

Some Meds I recommend keeping on hand are Kanaplex, Sulfathiazole, and Quick Cure.

These products treat a wide spectrum of diseases and are all very effective. Beyond all things, water quality and temperature stability will be the most important things for your arowana. Vitamins are completely subjective. Some people use them. I personally do not. A good food will have everything he needs to stay healthy. Try to get him off of live food as soon as possible. When they are small, floating pellets work pretty well. Just make sure to get small ones.

Black water is the term for the coloration and conditions found in parts of the Amazon River. There are natural organics, acids and tannins that leach into the water from wood and soil to create very soft water that is colored almost like a dark tea. There are several products that can simulate these conditions for you if you prefer.

Ryan wrote:

I currently have a 30 gallon bow-front salt water tank with one Condylactis Anenome, some Mexican turbo snails, live rock and blue legged hermit crabs. I wanted to transfer everything into a 75 gallon tank. But I just lost all of my fish to ich. Should I use new crushed coral, or use the old stuff from my little tank? What would be the safest way to know I won’t get ich again? I will set up a hospital tank, but I don’t want to have the same problem in my 75 gallon.

Marine Bio Responded:

Since you have recently had ich in your 30 gallon tank, there can always be the chance for another ich outbreak since the encapsulated cysts can hang around in your tank for several weeks. If you transfer the sand from your 30 gallon to your 75 gallon, you increase the chance of having another outbreak.  If you start with new sand, and add a new fish without quarantining them, you still have a risk of getting ich in that tank as well.  If it has been over a month since you have had fish in your tank, I would probably go ahead and add the sand from your 30 gallon tank just because of the good bacteria that is thriving in it. It is up to you if you want to buy brand new sand and start over, or use what you have and add new to it.  There are pros and cons both ways.  Ich is very tricky, the best thing you can do is quarantine and keep the conditions in the tank pristine.  Poor water conditions and stress may prompt an ich outbreak too.  You may want to keep meds on hand in case of any problem, just be sure you’re using a reef safe medication or remove your inverts to treat in the event of a recurrence.