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Goldfish ich problems
This “Aquarium Answers” post is an edited and expanded reply to an email question I received about a Goldfish suffering from an ich infestation, this post is not intended to be an in depth article about freshwater ich. For a more in depth article, please visit this site: “Aquarium Ich, freshwater and Marine”
I hope you don't mind my writing to you. I saw on a board that you had answered some fish questions very intelligently and was desperately hoping you might be able to shed some light on my situation.
About a month ago, we bought a healthy goldfish for my 7 year old son. Within a week he came down with a severe case of ich. We treated with the salt treatment and he recovered after about a week. Almost immediately, his fins turned raggedy white and ripped-looking - then they turned black at the edges (he is a gold fantail). We treated this with Maracyn-2 but it did not get better, so we did another round. During this time the fish became listless and started just hanging at the bottom of the tank. After the end of the second antibiotic treatment, he stopped eating completely. Thinking that the antibiotic had not gotten to him because of the "old" carbon filter we had running, and he was still sick, we tried Maracyn Plus. We are at the end of that now and the fish has not eaten for about 5-6 days (but doesn't seem thinner) and just stays, not swimming, near the bottom of the tank. His fins are okay (not clamped) and while his eyes looked a little popped at different times, they do not now. He looks VERY unhappy and does not seem to be able to swim.
During all this time we have maintained the water cleanliness and quality - although he did go from very hard water to softer water and now has a combination of both. (Treated of course). We started to decrease the salt, but that was when he fell sicker, so we have just maintained it at about 1 1/2 teaspoons/gallon of water, not wanting to stress him from the change. We have tried two different kind of food, but he doesn't even appear to see when we put the food in. He is now in a ten-gallon, though during all the treatments, he was in a one gallon or a three gallon (again - water quality tests came out ok) He is at room temp - about 75 - this whole time.
Thank you so very much for your time. I feel like I have tried everything and don’t know what else to do!!!
 First, you need to lower the salt level that may have helped initially, but to much salt will literally dehydrate your goldfish (I only recommend one tablespoon per 5 gallons). Goldfish absorb the water the need where saltwater fish drink the water constantly. When there is too much salt in with your goldfish, it stops this ability to absorb water and pulls the body fluids from your goldfish, which in the short term helps rid your fish of the ich.
Please see this article for more information about the osmotic processes in fish: “How do Fish Drink; Proper Osmotic Function in Fish”
 What are your filters? Sponge filters are good for small aquariums especially when combined with HOB filters.
 What are you feeding? I would recommend a Spirulina based flake at this time as it is easy to digest plus it helps with your fish immune system. Brine Shrimp is also easy to digest.
 I would recommend a methylene blue dip at double dose for 1/2 hour. To prepare this bath I use 1 teaspoon 2.303% solution per 5 gallons (double dose) in a bath of aquarium water from the tank the fish you wish to treat came from, I usually use about a ½ gallon of water, however you may use less. Measurement of the Methylene Blue does not need to be precise as this bath should be used for about 30 minutes. Make sure you keep the water in a warm area, as in a cold room the water temperature can drop rapidly which would stress the fish. Do NOT pour this water back into your display aquarium when finished. This can be performed twice per day.
 For goldfish a Malachite Green/ Formalin combination has generally been the most effective for moderate to severe infestations. “Quick Cure” is good product with this combination of medications (Malachite Green/ Formalin). While a somewhat newer product “Sea Chem ParaGuard” is slightly safer, albeit also slightly less strong formulation. Malachite Green by itself as in “Nox Ich” is also effective in moderate infestations. Other treatments of note are copper sulfate and Quinine Sulfate or Hydrochloride.
For mild to moderate infestations (even some severe) I also use “Medicated Wonder Shells” as these products have Malachite Green (lower levels safe for most delicate fish), acriflavin, and small amounts of methylene blue (not enough to affect bio filtration) and copper. What is best about these “Medicated Wonder Shells” is that they also add electrolytes, calcium and maintain a proper KH, which is very important for treatment with Malachite Green as this medication is more toxic at lower pH and KH (Best used at a pH of 7.2 or higher and a kH of 80 ppm or higher).
 Pimafix would be a safe organic follow up treatment to your ich problem.
The ”Medicated Wonder Shells” are useful for 10 gallon or larger for ich prevention and treatment, and help with secondary infection and electrolytes.
 Your KH and GH is very important to your goldfish' healing, goldfish do best a GH over 200 ppm and KH over 100 ppm. The GH is also an indicator of your Calcium level, which is essential for proper healing as well as osmotic balance. (Magnesium is important too, which can tested via a GH test)
Here is an information page with links to medications, KH, and more articles:
pH and KH problems in African Cichlid Aquarium
This article is a simple question and answer post between myself and two customers.
One of these days I'm going to write down the chemistry for pH, kH and GH and maybe I will remember it, eventually. But for now I new some advice. I got many good suggestions on my fairly new mbuna tank and thus far it has been going very well but something is amiss with my water. My tap water comes out at about 7.6 pH. I have about 30 pounds of holey rock in there currently. But, for some reason my pH seems to be dropping. Currently it is approaching 7.2
My gH is still pretty high 200 or so, but my kH has also started dropping from around 120 to currently just under 80. Nitrates are between 10 and 20. 0-0 on the bad stuff. I am doing 30-40% weekly water changes. I have 16 fishes in a 55 gal between 1 1/2 and 3". I may need yet another reminder about water chemistry or could it be my 'mystery' substrate. Along with some small tan gravel which I have used in many tanks with no apparent detriment, I also have maybe 15 # of stuff that was given to me a while back along with my first cichlids, a little tank etc. I have no idea what it is but she mentioned it was "supposed to be good for aquarium plants". It is approximately 1/3 each of black, brick red and tan stone. Though relatively small they are more like little chips than rounded pebbles - fairly jagged and rough on the edges. Then again it may not be this at all. Any ideas?
There's probably something producing a heavier than normal amount of acid. The normal biological process of Nitrification will have the same effect as titrating with nitric acid (NHO3). Carbonate hardness (KH) is slowly used up in this
process, reducing buffering and pH. When the KH is completely depleted, you will find that the aquarium pH will stabilize around 4.4 (of coarse this is much to low), and if you have a large amount of organic build up, it could be part of your reason (although your Nitrates are stable and low from what I read).
What are your filter(s)? Some filters such as large canister filters can become what is referred to as “Nitrate factories”. In this process, KH (Carbonate Hardness) is deplete if not cleaned (rinsed) regularly.
If you have an Under Gravel filter, make sure you occasionally remove the lift tubes and siphon out the mulm that accumulates under the plate. With all filters, it's still important to remove as much mulm and other organic debris as possible. A Aquarium Vacuum is the preferred method for both water change and mulm removal; although in between water changes an Ehiem Sludge Remover Vacuum is an excellent tool to have, especially in high bio load aquariums.
As for your KH & GH, I'm a big proponent of keeping an adequate KH (minimum 150 to 300 KH) and Calcium level for many reasons. One of them is for the problem you are having and the other is that GH is simple way of knowing your calcium levels in fresh water. It's also very important to fish health. Crushed coral or aragonite can help, but in my experience (especially in High ph aquariums such as African Cichlid tanks), they are not always adequate as these substrates do not dissolve fast enough to release the proper amounts of Bicarbonates, Magnesium, or Calcium for KH and GH.
In the closed environment such as an aquarium, I found that outside sources that are manually added and dissolve, are often necessary. There are many products available from SeaChem Malawi Buffer which is preferable to baking soda due to the balance of sodium bicarbonate magnesium and other minor elements; to the Wonder Shells which provide essential positive mineral ions (cations) necessary for fish osmoregulation.
At the risk of being too commercial, my personal and more importantly my aquarium maintenance client’s aquariums (especially Rift Lake Cichlids) are rarely without a regular Wonder Shell for Calcium and electrolytes control.
As for the plant substrate you were given, this sounds like a product such as Eco Complete or SeaChem Flourite which can lower your pH.
I have an detailed article about KH, Calcium and electrolytes: “AQUARIUM CHEMISTRY; Calcium, pH, GH, KH, Mineral Ions”
My point in mentioning GH is that Calcium and Magnesium are part of GH and are both necessary for proper osmotic processes in fish. If there are problems with KH, many times there are problems with GH (although in this case there does not seem to be a problem). The problem here indicates too much organic decomposition thus reducing the KH. Again I would check filters for build up too. When I called on customers aquariums experiencing this problem, many times they had a filter with a thick layer of mulch on the bottom. Removing this, then adding a KH stabilizer (which I had better results with a slow dissolving KH stabilizer), and the problem was solved.
CALCIUM, MAGNESIUM, AND KH IN AQUARIUMS
Carl, I am curious how the Wonder Shells compare per use with SeaChem Or Kent? I am definitely on a budget so sometimes I use 'good' at a Lower price, rather than 'better' at a higher price.
Does crushed coral, holey, aragonite, etc. buffer the water by actually dissolving, exchanging ions or whatever, into the water or is there some sort of chemical reaction in the water which eventually dissipates? How does the coral+ 'wear out' and have to be replaced?
I appreciate ya
For freshwater aquariums my experience has been equal to SeaChem (I have had better results with SeaChem products over Kent Marine and use them 10/1 over Kent for marine aquaria). For marine aquariums the Wonder shell help, but the well balanced SeaChem line is hard to beat (such their calcium polyglucanate)
The Large wonder shells are only a about $2.50 and are hard to beat for Freshwater.
My understanding is the same as using a cave chemistry analogy;
Water containing acids such as carbonic or nitric acid, VERY slowly dissolve away the minerals in the crushed coral, etc. which is why I have found in freshwater and marine, that the rate of dissolving does not keep up with buffer depletion. Basically the coral does not wear out, but dissolve away.
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