site logo

Main Index > Pandora's Fish palace disease section
11 visitors reading diseases

Badman's note. Pandora an old friend of the site is currently unable to further her work and her former webhost is on a temporary Hiatus. Working with her former host and friend I was able to recreate much of Pandoras hard work and once again offer most of this valuable resource to all hobbyist. I cleaned up the tables some and removed any broken links, all text is original.


Disease

Most of the time, troubleshooting by frequent water changes and avoiding fish stress will prevent serious outbreaks of disease in the tank. Off the list of preventative things, I cannot stress buying small numbers of fish SLOWLY enough; many a tank can be devastated by bringing in a large number of new fish in a relatively small time. Healthy fish can actually cohabitate with some disease organisms at low concentration without becoming symptomatic, but when fish are stressed by sudden environmental changes and overcrowded conditions, their immune systems don't function well and they become far more susceptible to disease. New fish especially are vulnerable, because they have been passed from breeder to wholesaler to distributor to retailer to consumer and most likely spent the whole time in horrid surroundings. They should be quarantined in a separate tank whenever possible.

Some diseases can be tenacious once they take hold in a tank. Be sure to try and figure out a general diagnosis before dumping a lot of medication into the tank, as some meds are toxic dyes that can kill with overdosing (especially to sensitive fish such as tetras and scaleless cats), and some, such as antibiotics, will wreak havoc on your biofiltration and throw your established tank into a new cycle. Keep in mind that "sometimes the cure can be worse than the disease" (and ALL chemical additions to the tank which change water conditions stress the life inside the closed environment). Also, keep in mind that most plants and inverts will not tolerate many medications in the water. In planted aquaria, it is best to remove the affected fish to the quarantine tank or into a small treatment vessel with circulation and heat. It is sometimes helpful to add a small (1tbsp/5gal) amount of aquarium salt (NOT marine salt, which is different), as most medications disturb healthy gill function, and the salt reduces osmotic shock and electrolyte loss... but this is a somewhat controversial issue that I address in the following article (pros & cons): To Salt or Not to Salt?.

I've been working on a photo archive of fish diseases that people send me or allow me to use from their sites. This list and archive of photos is not meant to be exhaustive or comprehensive. Please note also that some diseases have multiple manifestations (Columnaris, NTD, Fish TB, to name a few), and may vary in presentation from fish to fish; others are not true "diseases" caused by a single organism, but rather signs that could point to a number of causative organisms (dropsy, pop-eye). Click on the thumbnails, and you will be linked to the larger photos (if it was larger to begin with, that is, I can't enlarge photos any larger than they were when sent to me, because this will not improve resolution).

THIS IS AN ONGOING PROJECT THAT IS ALWAYS BEING ADDED TO. IF YOU HAVE A RELATIVELY CLEAR PHOTO OF A FISH WITH A DISEASE THAT YOU THINK I CAN USE, PLEASE EMAIL ME.

 

If you need help or have specific questions please visit the sites forum.
Discuss at the site forum

 

 

 


 

Common Name: Body Fungus
Pathogen/Cause: Saprolegnia spp.
Physical Signs: A very fuzzy growth which projects from the skin or fins of the fish. Usually has the "fluffy" appearence of food molds, can be white or grey. Needs to be differentiated from "false mouth fungus" Columnaris (see above). True parasitic fungus prefers to grow on already dead tissue and will often coexist with bacterial infections.
Behavioral Signs: Usually not severely affected until later stages.
Potential Treatment: Many formulations available, including brand names: Jungle Fungus Guard, Mardel Maroxy, Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Fungus Cure and generic formulations usually containing methylene blue.
Other Notes: Fungal infections are relatively rare but do happen in already weakened fish. They will be very distinct in appearence, as opposed to Columnaris, which is probably far more commonly seen in the aquarium (less protrusion of fibers, just a ragged fuzzy appearence). See photos to differentiate.

Photos:

Body Fungus
Courtesy of Chuck's Pets & Hobbies
Body Fungus
Courtesy of Pet Care Forum
 
 
Click photo
 
 
 

 

Common Name: Cotton Fin Fungus
Pathogen/Cause: Various, often Saprolegnia spp.
Physical Signs: Cotton-like "fluffy" or wispy growth trailing on fins of fish. Can gradually promote decay of tissue.
Behavioral Signs: Usually not severely affected until later stages.
Potential Treatment: Many formulations available, including brand names: Jungle Fungus Guard, Mardel Maroxy, Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Fungus Cure and generic formulations usually containing methylene blue.
Other Notes: Prefers to attack already damaged or injured tissue. Most important action is to do water changes and increase circulation of the system. Saprolegnia prefers to live in stagnant water. Sometimes improvement of water quality alone will erradicate the disease.

Photos:

  Cotton Fin Fungus
Courtesy of Jungle Labs
Cotton Fin Fungus
Courtesy of Joe from Badman's Tropical Fish
Cotton Fin Fungus
Courtesy of Jungle Labs
Cotton Fin Fungus
Courtesy of Michele Hartley
(very bad case of fungal infection on caudal fin; likely secondary to erosion by primary bacterial infection)
Click photo
Click photo
Click photo
Click photo

 

Common Name: Lymphocystis, Cauliflower Disease
Pathogen/Cause: Lymphocystis spp. (A DNA Iridovirus).
Physical Signs: Viral infection that causes cells to become megaloblastic, thus forming small tumors (bumps or growths), often along the lateral line or the pedicle, where the fin meets the body. The tumors sometimes take on the appearence of tiny cauliflowers, thus the name.
Behavioral Signs: Lethargy, general symptoms, may affect balance and swimming control if along the lateral line.
Potential Treatment: Frequent water changes and reduction of ammonia and nitrites in water may reduce stress to help the fish battle the infection and shrink tumors on its own. Interestingly, cyprinids & catfish which have been studied appear to be resistant.
Other Notes: Watch for secondary bacterial infections. Often attacks large fish fed with live foods. Cichlids are especially susceptible. Please check World Cichlid's page on HITH/HLLE which has much more detailed info, theories, and potential treatments of this disease. Also, Dr. Barb's Flippers and Fins Site has some more info for curious minds.

Photos:

Lymphocystis
Courtesy of 2la from The Age of Aquariums (not characteristic of usual presentation of disease)
Lymphocystis
My own photo (Taken at a local pet store which will remain unnamed.)
Lymphocystis
Courtesy of Tom Choi
Lymphocystis
Courtesy of Lars Lonstromm of the Laboratory of Aquatic Pathobiology
Click photo
Click photo
Click photo
Click photo

 

Common Name: Solid tumors of unknown cause
Pathogen/Cause: Not fully understood in fish or man. Many oncoviruses may be suspect in turning off genes involved in tumor suppression. In fish, just as in other animals, may be benign or malignant (cancerous).
Physical Signs: Growing mass of tissue, can occur on almost any part of the body.
Behavioral Signs: Usually not overtly affected unless the tumor is very fast growing internally, or obscures vision, feeding, or swimming.
Potential Treatment: None for most fish. Seek veterinary help for large and/or expensive fish. Surgery often the only cure, though rarely will shrink back on its own.
Other Notes: Not much known about the fish oncology at this time. Watch tumor closely for fast, uneven growth of tumor. If it keeps the fish from feeding and/or swimming, consider euthanasia.

Photos:

Solid tumors
Courtesy of The Welborn Pet Hospital.
Solid tumors
Courtesy of Joel Rose
Solid tumors
Courtesy of Ron Travelbee from Badman's Tropical Fish
Solid tumors
Courtesy of Mike Hottovy
Click photo
Click photo
Click photo
Click photo

 

Common Name: Anchor Worm
Pathogen/Cause: Lernea spp.
Physical Signs: Actually, lernea is a copepod (crustacean arthropod) rather than a true worm. It looks like a small whip (a few mm to under an inch long) attached to the fish at the mouth end and with a forked tail.
Behavioral Signs: Usually none noted unless very severe with secondary infections.
Potential Treatment: May be physically removed, but will cause great stress to the animal, and must be done carefully and with a dab of antibiotic over the wound afterwards. Brand name formulations like Jungle Parasite Guard and Aquarium Pharmaceuticals may also help.
Other Notes: Rarely seen in pet fish not kept outdoors (in ponds), and usually then only in ones that have been fed live foods.

Photos:

Anchor Worm
Courtesy of The Dept. of Western Australian Fisheries
Anchor Worm
Courtesy of Qian Hu Inc.
Anchor Worm
Courtesy of "JJ"
Anchor Worm
Courtesy of John Childers (this photo is one of the best high-resolution photos I've ever seen of its kind; really captures the anatomy of this parasite in detail)
 
Click photo
Click photo
Click photo

 

Common Name: Fish Louse
Pathogen/Cause: Argulus spp.
Physical Signs: A flat disk-shaped arthropod parasite with many legs. On the fish itself it is barely noticeable only as a flat, dull colored bump that you may just think is a part of the fish, unless you see the legs themselves or the disk moving around on the body.
Behavioral Signs: Usually none noted unless very severe with secondary infections.
Potential Treatment: May be physically removed, but will cause great stress to the animal, and must be done carefully and with a dab of antibiotic over the wound afterwards. Brand name formulations like Jungle Parasite Guard and Aquarium Pharmaceuticals may also help.
Other Notes: Rarely seen in pet fish not kept outdoors (in ponds), and usually then only in ones that have been fed live foods. Crustacean not related to true lice, which are insects.

Photos:

  Argulus
Courtesy of Niklas Gustavsson
(beautifully clear image of fish louse out of water!)

Argulus
Courtesy of Niklas Gustavsson
Argulus
Courtesy of Qian Hu Inc.
Argulus
Courtesy of The Aquatic Animal Health Research Institute
 
Click photo
Click photo
 

 

Common Name: Flukes (Skin, Gill, or Eye)
Pathogen/Cause: Dactylogyrus vastator (Gill Fluke), Gyrodactylus sp. (Mostly Skin Flukes), etc.
Physical Signs: Gill flukes may show with red, inflamed gills, but otherwise many fish flukes are microscopic (some of the largest being just a few mm, but mostly smaller), and so confirmed diagnosis by physical appearence alone is not possible. Confirm with a vet or lab.
Behavioral Signs: Scratching, gasping at surface (again a nonspecific sign that has other more common causes, see comments at right).
Potential Treatment: A good, thorough discussion of treatment options can be found in Dan's archived comments on fluke treatment.
Other Notes: No photos are included here, because usually flukes are too small to visualize with the naked eye. This also creates serious problems for trying to diagnose by general physical signs (hyperproduction of slime, inflamed gills) or general behavioral signs (listlessness, gasping, scratching, etc.). All these signs overlap considerably with other more common causes of skin and gill irritation, including ammonia poisoning and more common skin parasitisms such as ich. The first step in any tank where these signs are seen is to rule out ammonia poisoning first by testing for any level above 0.

Photos:

  External parasite
Courtesy of Cindy Buors (blurry photo of worm-like parasite on gill; large for most gill flukes, which are difficult to see with the naked eye; may possibly be another type of external parasite)

 
 
 
Click photo
 
 
 

 

Common Name: Roundworms
Pathogen/Cause: Unknown nematode species (metacercarean form)
Physical Signs: As shown below as an infection of connective tissue (usually internal worm infections cannot be seen externally and often affect the gut; in these cases, they have migrated to muscle tissue).
Behavioral Signs: Loss of appetite, lethargy, etc.
Potential Treatment: Try Clout or an antiparastic medication for large parasites (formalin and many methods were tried on the first cases below without success). There is also some good information on the treatment of camallanus worms as contributed by Jason Parry.
Other Notes: Please read my article, Worms in my tank?? before jumping to the conclusion that any worm in the tank is a parasitic or disease causing worm. The large majority of small worms seen in the aquarium not attached to the fish are free-living and harmless (the ones shown below are an obvious exception). Most of these true parasites shown below require a fish host at some time in their life cycle. They often come in with contaminated live foods such as Tubifex worms.

Photos:

 Roundworms
Courtesy of Mike Spafford
(unknown/possible sparganosis of nematode infection attacking muscular tissue)

Roundworms
Courtesy of Mike Spafford
(unknown/possible sparganosis of nematode infection attacking muscular tissue)
Roundworms
Courtesy of Tom Lorenz
Roundworms
Courtesy of Kevin Piper (another unpleasant photo of camallanus worms protruding from a fish)
 
Click photo
Click photo
Click photo
Roundworms
Courtesy of Averi Dohr
nematode
Courtesy of Anonymous (an interesting photo sent to me; moving nematode was found between the scales of a large koi)
 
 
 
Click photo
 
 

 

Common Name: NA / Unidentified Lesions, Growths & Cysts
Pathogen/Cause: Unknown--those shown below could have a number of causes--they could be bacterial infections that formed pus-filled cysts under the skin, they could be true tumors (see above), Lymphocystis, cysts that formed around worms, etc. Because I was uncertain, I didn't want to mislabel them, so I keep them here in the hopes that they will still help someone, if they see something similar. For a more thorough discussion of various causative organisms, please refer to Dan's archived comments on "unknown lumps & bumps".
Physical Signs: Varies greatly.
Behavioral Signs: Varies greatly. May have no affect on behavior at all, depending on cause. If near the mouth and it hinders eating, could have obviously faster consequences.
Potential Treatment: Unknown, may be incurable in some (if they turn out to be true tumors); depends on individual case. For those exuding pus and fluid and/or those cases where behavioral lethargy and malaise is seen, try an antibiotic. More detailed information on different treatment options that can be attempted can be found in Dan's archived comments on "unknown lumps & bumps".
Other Notes: These pictures shown below may span a wide range of different causes. Some are clearer than others.

Photos:

  Cyst
Courtesy of Mike Spafford (case shown above is recurrent; suspect lympho, but without certainty)

Cyst
Courtesy of Yew Wee Tan (this didn't look like any classic "textbook presentation" of anything that I knew of, except possibly a clumping bacterial or fungal nidus on the trailing caudal fins; photo clarity didn't permit me to say for sure... if anyone has any idea of this being more specifically characteristic of something else, please let me know)
Cyst
Courtesy of Michele Hartley (beautiful photo of a true hollow cyst; I believe that it may have originated with a bacterial infection just under the skin, and then grown enormously due to pus accumulation; fish shown above died within a relatively short time of first appearence)
Cyst
Courtesy of Luigino Bracci (amazingly clear photos of such a small, darting fish; it is beyond my knowledge what this growth could be, it was described to me as an adherant circumscribed and object that the owner believed may have been a parasite; however, it is larger than and distinct from most of the common fish parasites I am aware of)
Click photo
Click photo
Click photo
Click photo

 

Cyst
Courtesy of Nick Austin(beautiful series of 3 professional-quality photos; appear to identify the same multiloculated, fluid-filled cyst)
 
 
 
Click photo
 
 

 

OTHER

Photos:

  Fight injury
Courtesy of Michele Hartley (illustrates fight injury in male bettas that jumped barrier)

Fight injury
Courtesy of Michele Hartley (illustrates fight injury in male bettas that jumped barrier)
Gravid loach
Courtesy of Kamphol (shows a normal gravid loach [the equivilent of "pregnant" for egglayers]--obviously not a disease state, used here only for the purposes of comparison with pathologic causes of bloating)
Skin injury
Courtesy of Nathan Cantrell (superficial skin injury secondary to trauma; likely at this point not yet seriously infected, but may be in a subacute time frame)
Click photo
Click photo
Click photo
Click photo

 

 

 

Navigation

Privacy Policy | Contact Badman's Tropical Fish
Copyright ©
All rights reserved. Reproduction of any portion of this website's content is forbidden without written permission.