Does the science in this article hold up?

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AdoraBelle Dearheart

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Since we have some scientists here, and not a lot of active members that know much about disease, I'd certainly welcome learning more, and having more scientifically backed suggestions when people come here because they are facing illness or disease with their fish.

@MuddyWaters , you linked this article in a different thread;

I don't know the site, so don't know how reliable it may or may not be.

But I found it interesting, especially the other potential causes of stringy white poop, rather than it perhaps always being an indication of worms, as in the pinned emergency section thread.



My only personal experience was with trying to deal with camallanus worms in my tanks, and was told how common it is for livebearers especially, mass farmed abroad and shipped to store tanks, to come pre-loaded with flatworms, roundworms, or both. My personal anecdotal experience has found that to be true, and I needed to use two types of wormer in order to eradicate the issue.

But is it true that livebearers from stores especially tend to be infested with worms, or is that something anecdotal I've heard, but isn't proven?

On the other hand, I don't like adding medications or chemicals, especially with the amount of snake oil products available in the hobby, to tanks unless absolutely necessary.

What do people think? Any arguments or experience for or against the points made in the article?

My main worry if I were to follow the advice in the article is getting the dosage right, considering it will be different in every tank, depending on number of fish, if they even eat the food, and whether any specific fish will get enough, or too much of the medications.

The article also says that fish don't drink the water, so medicating the tank water (as I've done with eSHa-GDEX and eSHa NDX to get rid of both round and flatworms, and appeared to work) doesn't work and only makes money for the product manufacturers, however fish do breathe in the water, so I imagine they ingest the medication added to a tank that way?

Tagging some people who I think might find it interesting, those of a scientific mindset or background, or might have thoughts on the topic, or other research they've read, but no pressure to respond if it's not something that interests any of you that I've tagged! :)

@Byron @GaryE @Colin_T @Essjay @Naughts @Beastije @Seisage @emeraldking @Wills @TwoTankAmin @anewbie @Uberhoust @DoubleDutch @gwand @seangee @Ichthys
 
definitely worth some other input- I have found the articles he produces to be very helpful, and I tend to trust what he has- he does cite sources sometimes, but not always and he typically will separate his opinion from fact, but, although I've had fish with white stringy poop where nothing was wrong, I haven't had those live-bearers in a long time, and seeing you mention that it's a common thing for them to have worms makes me lean more toward the "better safe than sorry" side.

Also, the author does have a thing about manufacturers producing stuff to make money rather than for the benefit of the fish- I think he's right in a lot of cases, but pretty sure there's some overkill in there too. I still use a few products he states are snake oil- seems to work for me, although "correlation does not equal causation" (or whatever he says LOL).
 
Stringy white poop doesn't concern me. In my tanks, It comes and goes, though not often. If there is something else apparent, I'll look for it. Then it becomes something to consider.
It can be gutworms, but most gutworms are just there. Sometimes, they stunt growth, and sometimes they kill, but like human tapeworms, they are just part of life.
30 years ago, it was seen as 100% bacterial infection. Sometimes it is that.

I can't quote sources. I use a couple of disease books/sections of general books. I read articles. But I am fortunate to have a source of ethically collected wild fish. I just don't have to deal with many diseases. 99% of the time, stringy poops ruin photos, and nothing else. Things go back to normal quickly.
 
Yes, What's explained about poop is right, without other symptoms, it's nothing. And using medication orally instead of poisoning the whole tank could not be more true. In the 80's my Father used home made fish food with cat dewormer inside to treat livebearers that where all bloated, with complete success. I think the product he used was Drontal.
 
But I am fortunate to have a source of ethically collected wild fish. I just don't have to deal with many diseases.

I do think that this is potentially a huge variable to consider. A collector like you, @TwoTankAmin , and @emeraldking are likely to have fish that are wild caught, or have been kept and bred in excellent conditions by other quality breeders and collectors, or to follow a strict QT procedure for more unknown fish.

While a lot of the fish bought from stores are naturally going to be exposed to many more diseases, mass produced in not always the best conditions and different water quality altogether, less likely to be healthy and robust, seriously stressed and so much more vulnerable to disease.

These are also the fish and newer hobbyists we're most likely to see coming to the forums asking why their fish are dying, or whether to worm their new stock. So should our advice be more tailored towards this?
 
Yes, What's explained about poop is right, without other symptoms, it's nothing. And using medication orally instead of poisoning the whole tank could not be more true. In the 80's my Father used home made fish food with cat dewormer inside to treat livebearers that where all bloated, with complete success. I think the product he used was Drontal.

I do like the idea of adding into food so it's targeting the fish, and have seen other recommendations for soaking the medicated foods in just a little garlic juice, to make them more appealing to the fish.

My concern would be whether all of the fish would take in enough of the medication, or even whether it's possible to overdose an individual fish with a medication?

As an example, if you were trying to eradicate camallanus worms in a tank packed with colony breeding guppies of varying ages/sizes, how could you be sure all of the fish had taken in enough of the mediation to eradicate the worms, and not be facing another breakout in a few months?
 
Coincidentally, I was reading through this article last night in my disease research session haha. I think what he says is relatively accurate. I don't know a whole lot about the specific issue of the white stringy poop, but I can more or less confirm the "fish don't drink water". That's a very broad statement, and I'll get to the major exception in a bit, but generally, no, fish don't actively drink water. They get their water through osmosis, primarily via their gills.

What this means for medication is that any chemical in the water would need to be absorbed through gill tissue or skin. In freshwater fishes, gill tissue is selectively permeable and is most permeable to ions. Things like K+ and Na+ which are used in metabolic processes in basically all animals. Whether medications can be taken up via the gills is heavily dependent on what kind of medication it is and what the water conditions are. If a compound is ionizable, it is able to engage in acid-base reactions, so its chemical "species" (whether the molecule is ionized or unionized) will primarily depend on the water's pH. In basic conditions, the base will rip hydrogens off of molecules and ionize them, giving them a negative charge. In acidic conditions, the molecule can retain its hydrogens and is neutral. Alternately, in acidic conditions, sometimes molecules may take hydrogen ions from the acid and gain a positive charge.

Apparently, ionized molecules are less likely to be taken up via gill tissue than neutral ones, according to some studies on rainbow trout. Although, some ionized compounds were still fairly bioavailable, depending on pH. Anyway, fish do excrete waste products through their gills, like NH4+. The waste products can make the space around the gills more acidic than the surrounding environment, which can alter the bioavailability of some chemicals. Usually, the acidic conditions make the compounds neutral and thus more bioavailable, but if the environmental pH is raised, the gill pH will also be raised and make them less permeable.

It seems like most antibiotics are ionizable, but some other meds aren't. If you look at the molecule for praziquantel, for example, there are no hydrogen atoms to be stolen, and no real good places for a hydrogen atom to attach, meaning it is nonionizable (except maybe in some very specific man-made scenarios). I'm not sure whether this makes praziquantel harder to take up. Hydrophobic, lipophilic (fat-loving) compounds are generally less bioavailable, but it's been so long since I took chemistry that I honestly can't tell at a glance whether praziquantel is hydrophobic. My guess is no.

All this to say that pharmaceutical uptake via the gills is... unreliable. It's heavily dependent on environmental conditions and the metabolic conditions of the fish (i.e. what the pH around the gills is), as well as the chemistry of the medication itself. From what I can tell, uptake via the gut is a bit more consistent. Prazi, again for example, is noted to be much more readily taken up via the gut in animals.

...
OKAY. The exception! Saltwater fish DO drink water!! They need to in order to maintain osmoregulation within their bodies. Because their bodies are less salty than their surroundings, they're always losing water to their environment through their skin and gills via osmosis. As a result, they need to actually swallow water and process out the salt in order to maintain a sufficient amount of water within their bodies. I would imagine this fact eliminates the whole pH/ion song and dance written above lol.

If any of you are interested in this topic, I came across these papers while researching/fact-checking myself and they're really interesting. Sadly, the second two are not open access and I can't find a website that hosts them for free.

 
My concern would be whether all of the fish would take in enough of the medication, or even whether it's possible to overdose an individual fish with a medication?

As an example, if you were trying to eradicate camallanus worms in a tank packed with colony breeding guppies of varying ages/sizes, how could you be sure all of the fish had taken in enough of the mediation to eradicate the worms, and not be facing another breakout in a few months?
My understanding is that most medications (with the exception of things like formalin, copper, and malachite green (all of which are unlikely to be put in food)), are fairly safe and difficult to overdose. In terms of getting medication to all inhabitants, I think that'd just a matter of very careful and deliberate target feeding. It'd be a pain, but necessary in order to treat everyone if there are some fish that hog the food.
 
The Aquarium Science link is fine. I don't like the comment about stringy white poop on its own is nothing to really worry about because in my opinion, it is a major issue. Normally it is found in conjunction with other symptoms and any fish they produces stringy white poop, should be checked for diseases and treated with the appropriate medication. But the overall article is relatively easy to read, follow and understand.

My link is at the bottom of the page and is the sticky you mentioned. I talk about bacterial infections, protozoan infections and intestinal worms. The Aquarium Science link talks about Hexamita, which is the internal protozoan infection I mention. They talk about bacterial infections, same as me. They talk about worms, same as me.

The Aquarium Science link mentions Epsom Salts for bloating and it can sometimes help.
Metronidazole is an antibiotic and can be used to treat internal protozoan infections (Hexamita) in fish.
Praziquantel treats tapeworm in all animals, birds and fish.
Levamisole treats thread/ round worms in all animals birds and fish. It tastes unpleasant too :)
Flubendazole treats round and flat (tape) worms in fish and animals.

--------------------

Common livebearers (mollies, guppies, platies, swordtails) are regularly infested with intestinal worms, as are goldfish and rainbowfish.

Rift Lake cichlids and other cichlids that develop bloat and stringy white poop usually have an internal protozoan infection, which is normally caused by a bad diet (wrong type of food for the fish or food that is contaminated with bacteria).

Tetras, barbs, rainbows and a lot of other fishes that stop eating, bloat up overnight, do a stringy white poop, and gasp at the surface or near a filter outlet, have an internal bacterial infection and are dying. Bacterial infections can include Fish Tuberculosis (Mycobacteria species) or other types of bacteria.

Any fish (fresh or salt water, cichlids, livebearer, rainbow, tetra, barb, catfish, etc) can have any one of these problems. The groups of fish I mention above are more prone to those particular ailments but any fish can get any of those health issues.

Intestinal worms are becoming extremely common because they come from the fish farms and the worms are in the importers, wholesalers and shop aquariums. So any fish going into those tanks can become infected. The same thing with Fish TB, which is showing up more often.

Internal protozoan infections are normally found in fish that get fed the wrong food. eg: Discus and Tropheus being fed meat food. Vegetarian fishes have long digestive tracts (intestines) and when the fish eat meat, it starts to rot in the intestine. The fish develops an internal infection (either bacterial or protozoan) and dies or gets treated with Metronidazole. Carnivorous fish have a shorter digestive tract and the meat doesn't stay in it for as long, and they are less likely to develop infections from rotting food.

Bad food (food that has gone off or hasn't been irradiated), will often carry bacteria and other microscopic organisms that can give the fish "food poisoning" (same as people eating food that isn't stored, prepared or cooked properly). Frozen bloodworms and live tubifex worms are the two most common sources of food related internal bacterial infections in fish. Tubifex worms are often collected from sewers and carry all sorts of nasty pathogens. Bloodworms can be found in clean water but more commonly in unclean water that is usually contaminated with animal and human waste. Some brands of frozen bloodworms are irradiated and this kills off microscopic organisms making the food much safer. Other brands are not irradiated and they tend to be the brands that cause problems. It will usually state on the packaging whether it has been irradiated.


 
I do like the idea of adding into food so it's targeting the fish, and have seen other recommendations for soaking the medicated foods in just a little garlic juice, to make them more appealing to the fish.

My concern would be whether all of the fish would take in enough of the medication, or even whether it's possible to overdose an individual fish with a medication?

As an example, if you were trying to eradicate camallanus worms in a tank packed with colony breeding guppies of varying ages/sizes, how could you be sure all of the fish had taken in enough of the mediation to eradicate the worms, and not be facing another breakout in a few months?
Garlic doesn't do anything to fish except make them taste better. People think garlic is good for fish because they use it themself and if it works on people, it must work on fish. Fish and people have completely different dietary requirements and what works on people can actually kill fish. If you give dogs onion, garlic or grapes, you can poison them. So what's good for people, isn't necessarily good for other animals, including fish.

Do fish drink. Some do some don't. Fish from hard and salty water will. Fish from pure freshwater don't. See link below.

When treating fish for intestinal worms, you treat the entire tank and leave the medication in the water for 24-48 hours (longer if you like but it's not normally necessary), then do a 75% water change and gravel clean the substrate. You clean the filter too. You treat the tanks once a week for a total of 4 weeks. This kills any baby worms that hatch out after treatment.

You can usually treat for 3 weeks in tropical aquariums because the warmer water helps the worm eggs develop faster and hatch sooner. Whereas they take long to develop and hatch in cold water. So in cold water aquariums you need to treat for 4 weeks, or treat them in warm weather when the temperature is over 20C. I just recommend treating 4 times at weekly intervals so it covers everything. And you need to treat all your aquariums at the same time so you don't cross contaminate the tank you are treating.
 
You’re confusing Camallanus with Capillaria. Camallanus protrudes from the anus as tiny red worms. It’s Capillaria that causes stringy white poop.

I won’t comment much on treatment because that all depends on where you live. In the UK we treat the water and need to do nothing else. We don’t need medicated food and it’s rarely used.

In the UK we’ve been importing Camallanus in our livebearers for decades. You can almost guarantee it. It’s not a big deal because of the simple treatments we have available.

Stringy white poop as an only symptom? In the UK it usually means Capillaria.
 
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All worms cause stringy white poop. Camallanus, Capillaria tapeworm, they all do it. And the two thread worms (Camallanus and Capillaria) will both protrude from a fish's butt.
 
Hmmm... I’ve seen literally thousands of fish with visible Camallanus but never white poop with them that I can remember. I’ve also never seen it mentioned as a symptom of Camallanus, or Camallanus as a possible cause of white poop.
 
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You’re confusing Camallanus with Capillaria. Camallanus protrudes from the anus as tiny red worms. It’s Capillaria that causes stringy white poop.

I'm confused by all of it! :lol: I hadn't even heard of capillaria before.

My personal experience was with camallanus worms, the red ones sometimes protrude from the anus like the bristles from an old paintbrush. I was still relatively new to the hobby, had a lot of livebearers, some were ailing and dying, and I was losing a lot of fry that were around the 1-2 month old mark, but didn't know why. Took a while to figure it out since I wasn't sure what was happening, and the worms don't protrude at all times, I just finally happened to spot them like that with one fish, and then knew what I was dealing with. But also learned they often come loaded with both round and flat worms, so I treated for both.
I won’t comment much on treatment because that all depends on where you live. In the UK we treat the water and need to do nothing else. We don’t need medicated food and it’s rarely used.

In the UK we’ve been importing Camallanus in our livebearers for decades. You can almost guarantee it. It’s not a big deal because of the simple treatments we have available.

Stringy white poop as an only symptom? In the UK it usually means Capillaria.

That's another good point about treatment depending on area. Tons of meds readily (overly) available in the US, less, but still most useful ones available in the UK, very few available in Canada, and it's going to vary a lot depending on location in the world.
 
For a long time, I couldn't get water soluble nematode treatments. I had to use dog dewormers, til they came under veterinary prescription too. The local vets say they have not studied fish, so they would consider it unprofessional to prescribe for them. That's a quandary, but I'm a little over an hour north of Maine and there, I can gets meds. There's a Tractor Supply place that makes me think American tractors must have 40 foot tapeworms.

I won't buy antibiotics out of principle, but dewormers? Yeah.
I can also get water soluble nematode treatments now.

But what I did was take a little white flashed fish and hit it with the stick blender. I'd add some baby food veggies and some meds, and freeze it. Then I'd thaw tiny chunks and do a 3 week course, which did the job very well. No fish died, and no Camallanus or Capillaria seemed to survive.

I'm certain that every fish that comes from the wild has worms. But I think there's a balance internally, just as there is with us if we're healthy and get run of the mill tapeworms and such. For farmed fish, I think the crowding means they are exposed to parasite loads their immune systems can't control. And so we get sick fish, in many cases. I've noticed that when I get wild caught Asian fish, I often need to treat them. I think it's because they are delivered to the farms/exporters to go on the lists, and they pick up a parasite load in the holding tanks. It's easily dealt with.

South American and African exporters don't usually have breeding farms, but exclusively wild stock.

Anecdotes - not science. But it is very easy and quick (if messy) to make medicated foods.
 

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