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LEARN TO IDENTIFY AND TREAT MARINE FISH DISEASES There are five mar= ine fish diseases that can be deadly to aquarium inhabitants.  Whether you are purchasing a new aqua= rium inhabitant, or you think you may currently have some disease in your mari= ne aquarium, you should familiarize yourself with the symptoms of the five deadliest diseases, so you’re able to combat the disease before a serious issue arises. 

Marine Velvet= (Amyloodinium Ocellatum)

ABOUT:  Amyloodinium ocellatum is a dinoflagellate. Think o= f it as a type of single celled parasitic algae with two flagella that it whip= s to get around, with characteristics of both plants and animals. Its taxonomi= cal designation is somewhat complex; botanists have preferred to call it algae and in years past, zoologists have argued it is a protozoan. Amyloodin= ium are now classed as dinoflagellates in the Kingdom Protista, sort of in between plants an animals being photosynthetic and also motile.  It can be found attached to the infec= ted fish by rhizoids, which are root-like structures that the parasites use to penetrate, hold onto, and feed from their host. Once the trophont matures= and grows, it drops off the host fish, encysts and forms a stage called a tom= ont. The process of reproductive division then begins. One tomont divides repeatedly until there are up to 256 waiting offspring. It can complete t= his process rather quickly, in as little as three to five days at water temperatures of 72-77ºF. After these divisions stop, the cyst hatches and releases tiny swarming dinospores that remain infective for at least six,= and possibly as long as fifteen, days.

SYMPTOMS:  The signs of Marine Velvet infection are rather subtle. Respiratory difficulties seem to be one of t= he most common signs. Other signs are a decrease or a complete loss of appet= ite, rubbing against objects in the aquarium, erratic swimming behavior, and a dusty or dull velvety sheen, from which this disease gets its common name= . Amyloodinium has shown a preference for first attacking the gill tissue of fish, so on= ce it has spread to the body, consider the fish to be heavily infected and perhaps beyond hope of recovery.

TREATMENT:=   Freshwater Dip, Copper and Formalin have all been effective for removing the infection from the host fish.  Any addition of copper and/or formalin should be administered in a separate hospital aquarium and not the display aquarium.  UV Sterilization and O= zone have also been effective for removing the free swimming dinospores from t= he display aquarium.

Marine Ich (Cryptocaryon Irritans)

ABOUT:  Ich is a parasite.  The stage where the pa= rasite is attached to a fish is called a trophont. The trophont will spend three= to seven days (depending on temperature) feeding on the fish. After that, the trophont leaves the fish and becomes what is called a protomont. This protomont travels to the substrate and begins to crawl around for usually= two to eight hours, but it could go for as long as eighteen hours after it le= aves it's fish host. Once the protomont attaches to a surface, it begins to en= cyst and is now called a tomont. Division inside the cyst into hundreds of daughter parasites, called tomites, begins shortly thereafter. This noninfectious stage can last anywhere from three to twenty-eight days. Du= ring this extended period, the parasite cyst is lying in wait for a host. After this period, the tomites hatch and begin swimming around, looking for a f= ish host. At this point, they are called theronts, and they must find a host within twenty-four hours or die. They prefer to seek out the skin and gill tissue, then transform into trophonts, and begin the process all over aga= in.

SYMPTOMS:=   Some of the signs of infection with Cryptocaryon irritans are rubbing or scratching against decorations or substrate, breathing problems, an increased mucous layer, loss of appetite, abnormal swimming behavior, frayed fins, cloudy eyes, and, of course, the telltale white spots. These characteristic spots are usually described as appearing like small grains of salt stuck to the body of the fish.

TREATMENT:=   Freshwater Dip, Copper and Formalin have all been effective for removing the infection from the host fish.  Any addition of copper and/or formalin should be administered in a separate hospital aquarium and not the display aquarium.  UV Sterilization has a= lso been effective for removing the free swimming tomites from the display aquarium.  Hyposalinity (lowering= the salt level/specific gravity) has also been an effective treatment.

Clown Fish Disease (Brooklynella hostilis)=

ABOUT:  Brooklynella is a type of saltwater i= ch caused by an infestation of the ciliated protozoan Brooklynella hostil= is. It is most closely and commonly associated with subfamily Clownfish members of the Damselfish family, and therefore is typically referred to as Clownfish Disease. Although this parasitic scourge similar to others requires a fish host to survive, it is not particular in its quest to find one. Angelfishes, tangs or surgeonfis= hes, wrasses, jawfishes, and seahorses among others will host Brooklynella. Th= ese protozoa reproduce asexually by means of simple binary fission through conjugation, which is why they are able to multiply so much more rapidly = than Cryptocaryon (Marine Ich), and Amyloodinium (Velve= t), and why it can kill fish within a few days and even hours upon recognitio= n. For this reason accurate diagnosis and immediate treatment of all fish expose= d to these life-threatening organisms is critical.

SYMPTOMS:=   Most similar symptomatically to Amylo= odinium, this too is a parasite that primarily attacks the gills first. At the ons= et fish may scrap up against objects, rapid respiration develops, and fish o= ften gasp for air at the surface as the gills become clogged with mucus. Fish become lethargic, refuse to eat, and colors fade, but the most noticeable difference that sets Brooklynella apart from Amyloodinium is the= heavy amount of slime that is produced. As the disease progresses, a thick, whi= tish mucus covers the body, usually starting at the head and spreading outward, skin lesions appear, and it is not uncommon for signs of secondary bacter= ial infections to arise.

TREATMENT:  Copper and Formalin have both been effective for remov= ing the infection from the host fish.  Any addition of copper and/or formalin should be administered in a separate hospital aquarium and not the display aquarium. 

TB (Mycobacterium Ma= rinum)

AB= OUT:  Mycobacterium marinum causes a chronic progressive fish disease foun= d in freshwater, saltwater, and brackish environments. Closed aquatic systems = with a high density of fish and warm waters appear to be conditions particular= ly favorable to this infectious agent. Poor overall water quality and various nutritional deficiencies have also been implicated as possible contributi= ng factors to the onset of this pathogen. Good husbandry practices such as strict quarantine protocols, a high-quality and varied diet, as well as regular cleanings can help to keep your aquarium free of this bacterium, = but unfortunately it is no guarantee.


SYMPTOMS:  Weight l= oss, non-healing open ulcers, a distended abdomen, loss of appetite, fin erosi= on, unusual coloration, pop-eye, spinal deformities, and listless behavior are all possible signs of infection. Unfortunately, it is also possible an infected fish will show no external signs and may die mysteriously. A post-mortem examination will reveal the telltale nodules on and in the internal organs; in particular, the kidney, spleen, and liver. 

TREATMENT:  Sterilizing a tank is not usually effective since re-infection is so likely. It is also unpractical for our reef aquaria. To properly sterilize a tank, you must treat everything with bleach: aquariu= m, plumbing, pumps, filters, live rock, sand, corals, etc. The best protecti= on for your fish against this disease is to keep them as healthy as possible and, therefore, keep their immune system operating in peak condition.    Sick or dying fish should be remove= d from the display tank and placed in a proper isolated quarantine tank or euthanized.  

Head and Lateral Line Erosion

ABOUT:  This disease stems from the lateral line t= hat fish have, thus appropriately named Head and Lateral Line Erosion (HLLE).= It is also referred to as Lateral Line Erosion (LLE), Lateral Line Disease (= LLD) and Hole-In-The-Head Disease.   T= here are many "theories" as to why this disease occurs, but there se= ems to be no single definiti= ve answer that can be pinpointed or solely connected to it. Many of the contributing theories include stray voltage in the aquarium, poor water quality and environmental conditions, high nitrate levels, lack of vitami= ns and poor nutrition, stress, parasitic infestation, using carbon, and that some fish may just be genetically pre-disposed to this disease condition.=

SYMPTOMS:  It appea= rs as open pitted wounds around a fish's head and along the lateral line, as if something is slowly eroding away the flesh.  HLLE disease in the short run is not fatal, but over the long run = if the disease continues to progress the fish stops eating and becomes lethargic.   

TREATMENT:  Using over the counter medications does not seem to do much in treating this disease. However, those that contain antibiotics can help to treat for secondary infections. From all the research we have don= e, no matter what the actual "cause" may be, it appears that impro= ving water quality and providing supplemental vitamins and adequate nutrition = are key elements in "treating" HLLE. Many aquarists have had great success in reversing the effects of this disease by providing the fish wi= th supplemental vitamins, such as A, D, E or B's, as well as iodine. This ca= n be accomplished by feeding them foods soaked in Selcon, Zoe or other liquid vitamins, providing algae eating species with vitamin-rich live plant sou= rces.