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Has ANYBODY lost a fish to Dwarf Gourami Disease?

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Jan Cavalieri

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Jun 2, 2019
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Topeka, KS
I have a fairly large number of dwarf gourami's and keep hearing about this so called virus or "disease". As far as I can tell NONE of my gourami's have ever been affected and I have yet to read about anybody else on this forum with a Dwarf Gourami that died of this disease yet people are CONSTANTLY warning possible buyers of this species that their dwarf gouramis (or their other fish) might catch this virus from them.

Down below I found a couple of articles of interest Note the article on the indovirus is over 4 yrs old so I have no idea if this indovirus has been pretty much eradicated by breeders or gotten worse.

Another thing, as far as I can tell from these articles and others ONLY the Dwarf Gourami is affected by the virus, and in some articles it indicates only certain Dwarf Gourami's within a single tank may be infected by the virus. In general, good animal husbandry practices (ie., water changes folks) lowers the risk substantially.

But I'm willing to entertain that this indovirus is still a big nightmare in the fish world, even though you still see major retailers continuing to sell this fish to the public, but without more evidence, I do question whether or not it's really a big problem - especially when compared to all the other fish diseases we see routinely on this forum. My gourami, for example, has had fish bladder disease for over 2 MONTHS and I can't find anybody with any new ideas for treatment and I've tried everything that has been suggested or that I've found on the Internet. THAT kind of disease is far more scary to me than an unknown virus that, even 4 yrs ago was maybe was affecting ONLY 22% of dwarf gourami's and never seemed particularly contagious to other fish. Now bladder disease is not contagious but is the result of animal husbandry practices (in this case, feeding too many dried foods) that we all should be concerned that if one of our fish gets it, then others are at risk given they are being fed the same diet, - and therefore, educate about feeding less dry food or look for other solutions. If and when my fish dies I do plan to try to do a necropsy by myself to see if she died from intestinal die-off, which is what I suspect is keeping her from getting better but I'm sure going to have to get educated on fish anatomy - so if anybody has a link to a good guide to INTERNAL fish anatomy I would appreciate it. I'm not even sure where their swim bladder is likely located or what it looks like. I can guess on where the intestines are and I know what intestinal die-off looks like in mammals so I assume it's similar looking in fish, but you never want to make assumptions about things you know nothing about or you just end up sounding like an idiot or a know-it-all.



So read and see if you agree that we can most likely stop worrying about the dwarf gourami indovirus being a major decision maker on whether or not somebody purchases these absolutely lovely, peaceful fish. I'd hate for people to miss out on this species.
The Iridovirus has been around since the early 1990s and is not going away. It affects all species of Labyrinth fish and there are some indications it can spread to other species that are closely related to labyrinths.

We had numerous batches of gouramis (blue, gold, dwarf, pink kissing and pearl) that tested positive for the Iridovirus and were subsequently destroyed by the quarantine department. These fish were in a quarantine facility at the time. This was back in the early 90s.

Several other importers have told me they also lost tanks full of different species of gourami over the years. These fishes were all tested by the government fish health labs and confirmed to have the Iridovirus.

The last time I spoke to an importer about this issues was in 2016 and they still had the same issues with gouramis coming from Asia. Some batches were good and some were infected.

The problem with the Iridovirus and many other viruses, is it can remain dormant in the fish for months or years and only pops up when the fish is stressed, such as what happens in a quarantine facility, which have bare glass tanks with no substrate, no plants or ornaments, no backings, and huge numbers of fish in a small volume of water.

If the fish are kept in ideal conditions the virus can remain dormant and the fish might never develop symptoms even though it has the virus. It's a bit like the herpes virus in people. As long as you aren't stressed, it doesn't show up. However, the herpes virus doesn't normally kill its host, whereas the Iridovirus does.

The Iridovirus originated in Asian fish farms and still comes from there. Government departments like AQIS (Australian Quarantine Inspection Service) and the Department of Fisheries have done a lot to help reduce the number of diseased fish coming into and being sold in Australia but other countries with less stringent importation requirements see this disease occurring regularly. The problem is most shops and importers either don't know how to identify the disease or simply don't care. If a few fish die, they just sell the ones that are alive. Most customers are happy if their fish lives for 3 months so if they buy a dwarf gourami and it dies 3 months later, they are happy it lived that long. Other people like me get annoyed if the fish don't live 3 or 4 years.

The disease is out there and it does kill. If you can get locally bred stock, or fish that are guaranteed free from the Iridovirus, then you are fine. But without a government certificate saying these fish are guaranteed free of the Iridovirus, there is always a chance it will turn up in your tank.

Swim Bladder problems in fish are normally caused by poor genetics and not by food. If a fish has trouble with buoyancy after eating dry food, then it has ingested too much air and this needs to pass through the body and out the fish's butt before the fish can swim normally again.
Yes unfortunately still rife in the UK :( My first dwarf gourami I had for about 6 months very healthy for all the time I had him then for some reason I saw some females and thought I would get him a friend, big mistake :( she died within the month from suspected Irido virus and took him with her that was about 2 years ago, then a month or so ago I decided to try again, completely new tank matured filter etc picked what looked like a healthy specimen, unfortunately he died within a week rapid breathing and swollen belly, I never saw him eat :( every time I go into shops to look at them there are always fish in the tank either staying at the top or lying at the bottom, they must have to continually remove bodies :( such a shame they really are beautiful fish.
I have had two of them at different times. Very active for about 3 or 4 months... then suddenly died... too bad cause it’s a really nice fish to have.
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Wow I guess I've been lucky - I have about 12 dwarf gourami's and no sign of the Indovirus. Two were purchased locally, the rest from online stores. Nobody dared mention it or warned me about it. Since it's beyond my control, I guess I'm still not going to worry about it - since I've been on this forum nobody has mentioned currently having a dwarf Gourami with the disease. The 4 yr old article said something like 20% are affected. And so far ALL the articles I've read said it wasn't contagious to other labyrinth fish like Betta's and not particularly contagious to other Dwarf Gourami - yet you guys have experienced otherwise. It's frustrating they don't seem to know or care enough about the virus to really nail it down. For those of you that have lost fishes to this virus, I'm so sorry.

Thanks also for the info about fish bladder disease. I currently have a Gourami with it (over 2 months now) and is passing NOTHING, and she barely eats. No bloating, just vertical swimming. My newest victim is a Cherry barb that I thought was pregnant because she was swelled up like a balloon. Well today all she can do is tumble when she swims - it's 100x worse than the Gourami's symptoms, she also is not eating or pooping. Going to try an Epsom salt bath (I've tried it twice with my Gourami with no luck). Otherwise I don't feel the barb will be with me much longer she gets stuck laying on the floor of the hospital tank on her back, little eyes blinking in terror - so the stress alone will kill her. She lets me turn her over but then takes off on her own and tumbles once again on her back on the floor of the tank. The Gourami has much better control of her swimming but sill - little food and NO pooping for over 2 months - how can this fish be alive? My "hospital" tank is 5 gallons, planted and decorated so it hopefully is not a super stressful environment. I almost wonder if I should return the Cherry barb to the big tank with her school - I imagine she is terrified about not seeing them. Gourami are far more solitary so it doesn't seem to bother her. I don't know, this disease is so beyond frustrating and very time consuming to treat. How to get a cherry barb to relieve gas....
The Cherry barb died overnight - I was afraid of that since she was running out of strength to swim and basically laid at the bottom of the tank with her eyes blinking. I did the best I could with a necropsy today and found no eggs (plus it turned out to be a male), just very bloated. I think I was able to remove her swim bladder in two separate sections and both were completely inflated. There was no food in the intestinal tract but there was some bile. She obviously had not eaten in a while. The rest of the organs I couldn't identify (plus I know next to nothing about internal fish anatomy so I had to make my best guess at what I was seeing.) I so wish I had stayed up later and tried the Epsom salt bath the moment I saw her problem, instead I just put her in a much smaller hospital tank so she wouldn't tumble so far. My Gourami with swim bladder disease for over 2 months is still alive even though she barely eats - I have to smear tubiflex worms on the side of the tank and she will eat a few bites of that but she won't chase out food like flakes and won't accept hand fed peas even when soaked in garlic extract (her favorite). If she would seek out food on her own I'd return her to the big tank and just accept that she'll always be this way but since she doesn't really eat on her own that would be a death sentence right now.

Why are fish diseases so difficult to treat - they sell tons of products to treat everything and then the fish ends up dying anyway.

So glad I don't have the fatal indovirus, although a quick death sometimes is easier to deal with.
Unfortunately, I have lost several dwarf gouramis over the years, though whether this was entirely due to the Indovirus is anyones guess. However, they do seem very prone to suddenly getting ill and dying rapidly.

Given the above, I don't think I'll be buying dwarf gouramis any time soon even though I really like them.
Since it's beyond my control, I guess I'm still not going to worry about it - since I've been on this forum nobody has mentioned currently having a dwarf Gourami with the disease.
There have been a couple of people that have lost dwarf gouramis to the Iridovirus on this forum during the last year or so. One in particular had a great photo showing a dwarf gourami with sores appearing all over its body. That is a classic symptom of the Iridovirus.

If fish ever bloat up overnight and stop eating, euthanize them straight away because it is normally an internal bacterial infection that has caused massive internal organ failure.

When fish stop eating and have other health issues (can't balance, bloat up, can't swim, gasp at the surface or near a filter outlet, etc), they are dying and should be euthanizes straight away.

Fish do suffer from pain so don't prolong the agony by trying different things that might or might not work. As a general rule, if a fish bloats up overnight, it will be dead within a short time (usually 24 hours or less).
We lost two dwarf Gourami's last year. I'm not sure what they had but they were perfectly fine for almost two years then both bloated so rapidly and we put them down. I'm not sure what the cause was but they were neat fish.
Ive kept dwarfs and lost them to iridovirus. I had a beautiful powder blue gourami. Had him in the tank for well over a year. (Lasted longer than any other dwarfs(normally only make it a month to 2 months tops). Showed absolutely no signs of any illness. Then one day I cam home from work found him at the top of the tank with his nose out of the water and very bloated. He died about an hour later. At the time I was dating a girl who was studying to become a vet and was training at my local vet centre aswell as in uni and when it died she offered to do a post mortem for me at the uni under the supervision of her tutor. It came back that the fish had died of dwarf gourami iridovirus. So yes iridovirus is still about and doesn't seem to of been bred out of the fish.

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