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Dwarf Puffers & Internal Parasites

Discussion in 'Tropical Discussion' started by markanthany, Dec 8, 2015.

  1. markanthany

    markanthany Mostly New Member

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    Hi all, I'm new here.  I acquired three dwarf puffers three days ago and after a bit of reading, found that the vast majority of them come with internal parasites.  However, I noticed that only maybe one out of the ten threads I had read of people treating their sickly puffers, actually ended with the puffer fish improving and not dying.  So, I thought I would try to document my case of dealing with it in the event that I am successful, so that it could help others in the future.
     
    So what I have right now is a cycled 5 gallon.  The water tested with 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and extremely low nitrate.  Temperature is around 75F, ph is 5.8, water is soft and crystal clear.  Right now I have a small airstone with low flow for aeration, a peace lily in there and some rocks for cover/hides, a little duckweed, and half the bottom (floramax substrate) covered in an attempt at a dwarf hairgrass carpet.  I am dosing 1/2 dose for a 5g of Seachem ferts once every two days.  This is also a species-only tank with the exception of a ton of snails (food) and two ghost shrimp that they like to pick on now and then (also food).  I've got a grow light on it about 8-10 hours a day that provides medium light.
     
     
    Okay, so with all that covered, here's my situation:
    Have always loved dwarf puffers, found them in stock at a LFS and happily picked out three.  Whilst still in the bag on the way home, I noticed that one seemed significantly less lively than the other two and not as rotund.  At this point, I knew everything that they needed to be cared for, but had no idea about the internal parasites.  I kept an eye on them that night after they were released into the tank and noticed that this one was still staying near the bottom, swimming slowly, while the other two were much more lively and inquisitive and staying together in a pair.  Their coloration was also brighter and their bodies more round.
     
    Then the next day I decided to try to feed them frozen brine shrimp because we couldn't find any live foods at the LFS near us.  (I still need to find one that carries some, no idea why it's so hard to find around here for some reason.  We have a ton of LFS's.)  As I kind of expected, they wouldn't go for the brine even though I tried to wiggle and circulate it in the water a bit with a turkey baster- they simply watched it float to the bottom and the ghost shrimp began clean up a little while after.
     
    Then later that day I went out and was given a ton of pest snails of all shapes and sizes.  The puffers immediately went after these and I continue to find large, upturned rotting empty snail shells.  It's been really entertaining to watch them hunt and flip them over.  As for the poorly one that by now I am sure has internal parasites, he is striking at the shells and I did see him eat some.
     
    Then yesterday, I noticed that he seemed even skinnier and I didn't see him eating or as lively as before.  He took to swimming slowly along the bottom and eyeing some snails, but not striking at them.  I had read a lot about garlic and had already purchased some minced garlic the day before, so I put the poorly puffer in a small glass container with some tank water.  I prepared some frozen brine shrimp by soaking them in garlic juice and then put them in the container with him, but he showed no interest.  I even soaked multiple snails in the garlic juice, alive and whole and some partially crushed so he could eat them easier, but to no avail.  I then added a bit of garlic juice to the main tank and returned him.
     
    So later after much research, I went out and bought some API General Cure, and this is why:  From what I can tell, there are really only 3 medications (and please correct me if I am wrong) that are effective in dealing with de-worming the type of worms that dwarf puffers and other fish commonly get; praziquantel, metronidazole, and levamisole.  I decided to purchase API General Cure instead of Prazipro or others because it contains both praziquantel and metronidazole.  I could not find any brand of levamisole in stores near me and as I hear it is very hard to obtain but very effective in treating camallanus worms, (which I understand can be extremely difficult to get rid of once in a tank) but I did find some on eBay for $27.00.  I haven't ordered it yet, but may consider buying it in the future.
     
    So now today, after dosing what was recommended for my tank of API General Cure, there seems to already be a significant difference.  See, I began to suspect that another puffer may actually have internal parasites as well, but to a much less severe extent.  This puffer has a more beige and washed out or dull coloration and his body is much less round than the third puffer I have.  This other puffer is extremely healthy, with bright contrasted coloring and a nice smooth, round belly with plenty of energy.  So in a way, this one will be my standard of health for monitoring the other two.
     
    Today the poorly puffer is decreasingly active and I also have not seen him eat or show interest in the snails.  However, he is floating around (not upside down, just lazily) around the surface of the water and occasionally sitting on the substrate which I have never seen him do.  But the biggest change for him is that the lump of which I assume to be the worm, has moved from sitting just behind his jaw, to decreasing in size and moving down his belly.  I am hopeful that these are signs that the medication is working and its taking some energy out of him to pass the worm(s).  As I said I did see him eat when I got him, so he's only been two days or so since I've last seen him eat; the other threads I have read of sick puffer, they go ten days or more without eating before passing away, though my sick puffer is very skinny and concave.  
     
    The other puffer that I believe also has parasites but is in much better health, his coloration is drastically better, with darker black spots and brighter yellows rather than beige.  His belly has also smoothed out, though I have not been able to catch them pooping (I've only seen the healthy one pooping before, and it was normal and brown.)  The healthy puffer continues to remain very healthy active.
     
     
    So that's my case so far.  Tomorrow it'll be time for me to do another dose of API General Cure as per their directions and then depending on how things appear Thursday, I may then begin another dose (I read that you can safely dose it for up to 10 days.)  I will keep the thread updated with my progress and see if I can't successful treat these pesky worms.
     
     
  2. RainboWBacoN420

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    YUCK! Worms... Never had to deal with parasitic worms like that, just nematodes that live in my sand.
    Keep this updated please, I'd like to see how this goes, hope all will be fine.
     
    On a side note, I read in a few books of mine that puffers should not be exposed to aeration such as air pumps, now these books are referring to marine puffers, but I'm sure the same principles would apply to freshwater puffers.
     
  3. markanthany

    markanthany Mostly New Member

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    I've never had to deal with worms either before.  I came on to give an update as I believe we have made immense progress tonight, and I hope this will continue to be useful to others.
     
    On the aeration, I did not know that, so I'll do some more reading around on how it affects dwarf puffers.  The air pump is on a control valve so the bubbles coming from it are very small and slow; I know that they like little to no flow and I think what I have for now should be fine, but I will do more research on it.  Thanks!
     
     
    Update for tonight:  Good news!
    So I dosed the API General Cure last night, so I'll say that it's been a little over 26 hours since then.  Around 12 hours in, a little after noon today, I noticed that the poorly puffer became much more lethargic, and the lump in his belly that I can only assume is the worm, had shifted further down his belly.  He started laying on one of the peace lily leaves as he started spending most of his time very still at the water's surface.  As there's not much else I could do anyway, I let him be as not to cause him any stress; I figured if he is able to pass the worm(s) that it will surely tire him out as he is already as thin of a puffer as I have ever seen from photos online.  
     
    I kept a very watchful eye on him over the past 12 hours and about thirty minutes ago, he is off the leaf and swimming on his own at the same pace he was the day I got him; and best of all, the lump in his belly is gone!  I tried to check the substrate for any white waste that may have been the worm, but it's already littered with snail parts and would be hard to pick out if I could see it.  So far by his behavior, he seems to be feeling a lot better.  Right now I'm going to let him rest a little bit more, but currently debating on if I should net him out and put him in a small feeding bowl, and try to give him a live snail coated in garlic juice in order to coax him into eating.  I'm sure that he hasn't had much food at all since I've had him and I worry that hunting and flipping the snails over may be too much of a task for him at the moment, but I can't exactly force feed him.  I'm going to monitor him over the next hour to see how his energy levels are looking, and if they look good enough, I may quarantine him and try the snail.
     
    I'm also going to call every LFS within a reasonable radius from me tomorrow and see who, if any, carry live food small enough for him to eat.  If I can pick up some tomorrow, I'll quarantine him and coat it in garlic juice and see if he takes it.  The frozen brine that I coated in garlic juice yesterday and dropped into the tank was actually eaten by the two other puffers— it seems that garlic juice may be enough to get them to eat frozen foods.  As far as the snails go, the massacre continues, and those two may even kill them off before the end of the week.  I really must have gotten 30+ snails with most of them the size of a penny.  It is amazing to me how such small creatures can kill and eat THAT many snails, but the other two seem as happy as ever.
     
     
    I'll continue to update, but for now I feel really hopeful that he could actually recover, and if he does, that is really saying a lot for how skinny he is.
     
  4. markanthany

    markanthany Mostly New Member

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    Ok, so I didn't try to quarantine and feed him last night and I think it was for the best.  He is still alive this morning and moving around more than yesterday which I believe to be a good sign, though it's mostly just drifting with his mouth pointed toward the surface of the water.  So far he hasn't been laying on the leaves or the bottom of the tank.  His belly also looks like it has a tinier bump toward the back, so it's possible he may be still trying to pass more worms.  I actually have two pictures of him that you can see for comparison from before and after one treatment of API General Cure.
     
    Before, three days ago:
    poofer2.jpg
     
    Today, after one treatment:
    poofer11.jpg
     
     
    You can see how the bump in his belly has shifted and started to shrink, though his belly was nearly flat last night.
     
    Right now I'm about to do a 25%-50% water change on their tank because the garlic juice from the day before has made the water a little murky and I know that it's really important to keep their water clear.  After that I'm going to do the second dose of API General Cure and try to pick up some live brine shrimp today.  I'm honestly just amazed that this little guy is even still alive.
     
  5. markanthany

    markanthany Mostly New Member

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    Update:
    So about an hour ago I quarantined the little guy and put some live brine shrimp in there, as well as some in the main tank with the other two puffers.  The other two went crazy after them, the one with questionable health (I think he has parasites too) has a big belly now.  I hope he didn't overeat?  Thinking if he does have parasites, he may just be big due to the food + the worm in his belly.  I was able to see some of both of their waste as well though, and it's brown, so I'm hoping that's a good sign for the other two.
     
    As for the poorly puffer, he looked at the brine shrimp and showed a little interest, but I haven't seen him eat any.  He has taken to drifting along the top and laying at the bottom, but swimming around occasionally.  I didn't want him to be out-competed for food by the others in the main tank, though there are still plenty of live brine shrimp on the substrate for him to eat.  
     
    I'm thinking that the API General Cure may make him extremely tired within a couple of hours of dosing it, as his activity dropped significantly last time when I dosed it around this time.  He seems to be fighting this pretty hard though, so I'll just have to continue dosing medicine, keeping some live brine in the tank, and making sure the water parameters are all good.  I'm not sure there is much else that I can do for him now.  
     
    I just put him back into the main tank and he swam around a bit, but is now lying on the substrate and breathing very heavily.  I hope I didn't stress him out, but I was worried that his quarantine bowl I used to feed him in was causing him to drift along the surface due to lack of oxygen, so I put him back in.  The main tank has an airstone with small flow in a corner near the top to cause surface agitation, and I have plants in there as well to put oxygen back into the water.  I hope that's enough.  The other two puffers seem as well and happy as ever.
     
  6. Sam ary

    Sam ary New Member

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    I have 2 pea puffers and 1 of them always looks really skinny and im leaning towards having to treat for parasites, thank you for the information!!! I also wanted to say I use a sponge filter hooked to the air pump and that works great for adding a filtration system while adding oxygen without a strong water current, as they tend to like less current
     

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