Introducing our new disease series! Every Saturday I’ll pick a new disease and briefly cover the symptoms and treatments as well as try to include pictures (if possible).
Today’s disease is a parasite called “Ichthyophthirius multifilis” or more commonly known as “Ich or Ick.” It is a very common disease in tropical fish, including bettas. Your fish may become infected with ich if its immune system becomes compromised due to a sudden temperature change or a change in water quality. In my experience I’ve also seen a male become infected with Ich after being removed from a spawn. It is my opinion that this particular male was under a great deal of stress (although the spawn itself was quite peaceful) which affected his immune system enough for the ich to take hold. Mortality is very low with this disease if treated correctly.
The most commonly recognized symptom of this disease are white spots covering the body of the fish. These can range from just one or two spots to hundreds depending on how bad the infestation is. These spots look like grains of sand or salt. This is when the parasite is burrowed into the body of the fish, feeding off of its blood and dead skin cells. This parasite also spends part of its life-cycle in the water column.
Other symptoms can include scratching on rocks and other surfaces and lethargy. Occasionally this disease can attack the gills of the fish in which case flashing will be seen.
The number one thing you want to do when treating this disease is raise the temperature. An adjustable heater is a must. From my research and personal experiences a temperature of 84-86*F is ideal for treating ich. The reason behind raising the temperature is to speed up the lifecycle of the parasite. Ich can not be treated in its attached phase, only in its free swimming phase, which is why it is important to speed up the cycle and get the parasite to fall off of the fish.
Treat the fish in its regular tank. Remember, this parasite has both an attached and unattached cycle so there will be parasites in your water column as well as substrate/decorations. It’s best to treat the entire tank instead of removing the fish to a QT tank. However, if your fish is in a cycled tank that uses carbon filtration you will either have to remove the carbon or move the fish to a hospital tank.
The most commonly recommended treatment is 1/2tsp per gallon of aquarium salt. In my experience even up to 1tbsp of aquarium salt can be used. Make sure your salt is dissolved before adding it to the fish’s tank. There are also hundreds of medications out there that treat ich and most of them work pretty well. My personal favorite is QuICK cure which can be found at almost any petstore and I believe I’ve even seen it at local walmarts and grocery stores.
Once you have your fish medicated treat for at least 14 days. A good rule of thumb is to continue treatment for 1 full week after no longer seeing any white spots on your fish.
Ich is very treatable but like any disease the number one treatment is prevention. Keep up with water changes, feed a quality diet, and make sure you keep a stable temperature.
This concludes this weeks segment of Diseases and Treatments, tune in next week for information on my mortal enemy, Velvet.