I goofed on quarantine recently (quarantine tank had a breakdown, gambled on putting healthy-looking new fish in community tank after just 3 days, paying price now)… and I had a small problem of ich with 3 or 4 of the fish after not having seen the disease in many years.

I know it is ideal to take all the fish out and treat them in a separate hospital tank, but this was just not practical in my case. The main problem was, my tank is heavily planted and has 40+ fast fish (cannot treat fish separately without tearing tank down), and most meds will hurt plants.

So, since no I met seemed to know, and there is little info on the web (there is a TON of info on treating ich in tanks w/o live plants, including my previous article here), I did some research, and a little experimenting… so here are my results, for people with plants in their aquaria hoping to treat:

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A picture of the authors planted tank.

1) Malachite green:

(in popular brands like QuickCure and Super Ick Cure): big no-no for live plants (good Tx but hard on fish as well). I knew this before this recent problem, so I didn’t even try it in this tank. Note: turns water bright blue, very strong meds that will kill some weakened fish if used at dosage prescribed.

2) Coppersafe:

Contains copper, so I had my doubts, I know it is not great for plants and bad for inverts (my Malaysian snails aerate their roots). However, I’ve read mixed reviews about it on the web–some planted people use it in very low concentrations with few problems. It supposedly also irradicates algae problems in ponds when very dilute, but I try not to add stuff to my water unless really necessary. It does not seem to have any adverse effects on sick fish and does control the disease, though not quite as fast as malachite green.

3) Formalin:

This is a part formaldehyde mix, which is pretty safe on fish and plants. I used a low conc. of it for about 4 days, and saw no ill effects to the plants, but it’s early still (they will lag in their response). It is not known as a fast cure, and is an older treatment with a longer history in the pet trade. You need patience if you use this instead of some of the newer meds, but I think it’s worthwhile if you have plants and don’t want to risk them. I did 20% water changes every other day and kept the temp at a steady 86 F.

4) Maracide (by Mardel):

One of the few other treatments besides formalin I’ve heard was safe with plants, so I am now discontinuing the formalin and trying this, no results yet on safety with plants (at this point, fish show no visible signs or spots, and are all healthy looking, just treating tank for parasitic cysts to prevent recurrences). Note: turns water green. Anyway, this is just FYI stuff.

This ordeal was a huge pain, to say the least. I definitely say, learn from my mistakes, prevention and quarantine are the best way of avoiding ich. I hadn’t had a problem with it for years until I got sloppy. I caught this in time, and with almost daily water changes and some low level dosages of the last 2 meds, was able to stop the epidemic, with not one fish or plant fatality. But treating in a planted tank definitely requires more patience than without, and you should always treat for at least 10 days, even after the fish show no more spots, because of this disease’s complex life cycle.


It’s been >4 weeks now, and the fish are fully recovered, with no relapses and no deaths. One or two of the leaves on my Red Rubin swordplant have curled, but otherwise, the plants have shown no problems at all. This is partly because I have kept up with 20% water changes every 3 days.

I have returned carbon to the filter now, and the biological filtration should be working fine (seeded it with media from another healthy running tank), and I have no new tank cycling problems. I think water changes, though a more conservative action to take, are key in controlling this disease, because the cysts (stage unaffected by meds) lay dormant in the substrate.

5/5 - (19 votes)


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