Neon Tetra - Columnaris?

JBFUK

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I have a small 40L tank. It houses some live plants, two bamboo shrimp, ten neon tetras, one rummy-nose, three Oto's and one Ram.

I've noticed that for approx 3 weeks that two of the neons have had a white lump/growth on their bottom lip. Initially for the first week I started to treat the tank with both Pimafix and Melafix. One of my Oto's died that week and my wife blamed the treatments I was using, the infected neons showed no change so I stopped and did a 40% water change.

Two of the neons still have this ailment and I have noticed one Oto has a white patch on its head which has been growing. The other neons seem ok but I have noted that some of their fins look a little tatty, with a hint of white on the leading edge - most noticeable on the bottom fin.

Now my tap water is very hard (measured 18GH and 12 KH with the API drop tests) which I understand is not ideal for the neons so I have begun to reduce these by doing daily 3L water changes using RODI water set to approx 8GH and 6KH using SeaChem buffer products. Using the API master test kit I get Ammonia readings of around 0.5ppm, Nitrites are 0 and Nitrates are around 5-10ppm. PH is around 6.8-6.9.

Based on what I have read it seems that the issues I'm seeing may be caused by Columnaris. It seems to be suggested that this requires an antibiotic treatment and will continue to be an issue and spread. I would like to deal with this both for the sake of the fish but also to avoid future problems as I'm currently putting together a larger tank and had planned to migrate some of these fish over once done.

One treatment that I've read about which contains an effective active antibiotic ingredient is API Body and Fin. However I have concerns. First of all as to whether or not my diagnosis is correct, secondly that some people have reported fish death immediately following this treatment. Finally I'm concerned about the effect this treatment will have on the filter bacteria and the knock on impact of that on the aquarium and inhabitants.

Any help/advice appreciated.
 
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JBFUK

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Figured a few photos may help. Sorry for the poor quality of the neon photos, they don't stop moving for long enough to get a good shot. You can see one of the patients in the group photo - to the top right of the frame.

IMG_9928.JPG


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Colin_T

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If the neon tetras have had the white bit on their mouth for 3 weeks, it is not Columnaris. Columnaris (aka mouth fungus) is a nasty flesh eating bacteria that kills fish within 24-48 hours of showing the white mouth. It spreads extremely rapidly and covers the face and head within 1-2 days. By that time the fish is normally dead.

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You can try doing a 75% water change and gravel clean the substrate every day for 2 weeks and see if it helps. If the Otocinclus gets worse after a couple of water changes, then get a broad spectrum fish medication that treat bacteria, fungus and protozoan infections (do not use anti-biotics). Make sure the medication is safe to use on scaleless fishes like catfish and loaches. If you can't find one suitable for them, use a normal medication at half strength.

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Before you treat the tank, do the following things.

To work out the volume of water in the tank:
measure length x width x height in cm.
divide by 1000.
= volume in litres.
When you measure the height, measure from the top of the substrate to the top of the water level.

Remove carbon from the filter before treating or it will adsorb the medication and stop it working.

Wipe the inside of the glass down with a clean fish sponge.

Do a 75% water change and gravel clean the substrate. The water changes and gravel cleaning will reduce the number of disease organisms in the water and provide a cleaner environment for the fish to recover in.
Make sure any new water is free of chlorine/ chloramine before it is added to the tank.

Clean the filter if it hasn't been done in the last 2 weeks. However, if the filter is less than 6 weeks old, do not clean it. Wash filter materials/ media in a bucket of tank water.
 

Deanasue

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White bubble mouth growths are really common with neons. The best treatment, as Colin_T has said, is 75% daily water changes and aquarium salt dosed at 1 tablespoon per 5 gallons of water. After initial dose of salt, add 3/4 tablespoon daily after 75% water change. Be sure to dissolve salt in some tank water first so it doesn’t sting the fish. Do this for 2 weeks.
 
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JBFUK

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Isn't aquarium salt bad for catfish? Perhaps I've read that somewhere but miss-understood. We lost another Oto over night and it wasn't even the one with the white patch. Not sure what's going on, I don't think the water quality is too bad - a tiny bit of Ammonia but I've reduced feeding to try to resolve that. It's the clearest it's ever been since I've started the small changes with RODI water which I've been doing since the weekend.

A 75% water change every day is a lot (24L based on 32L water in the 40L tank), I don't think I can manage that every day for weeks. Perhaps once followed by smaller changes but it concerns me that as I'm now reducing GH/KH with RO water that such a large change of water will harm the fish (osmotic shock?). Is this a valid concern? That's why I've been doing frequent small changes - to change these gradually. I'll do a full set of tests on the tank water later today to see where the GH/KH are at the moment.

Guess if still some way off the target I could just continue with smaller daily changes (perhaps a little larger, 5-6L) and also clean the gravel while doing that. I had stopped cleaning the gravel when changing water as I'd read a newbie mistake is cleaning the tank too much which disturbs bio-processes, bacteria colonies etc.

I'm glad that it doesn't seem to be Columnaris as that sounds really bad. What type of treatment is suggested? I take it Melafix and Primafix are not up to the task?
 

seangee

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If the GH in your tank water is still very different to the RO water you could mix tap water with RO to get the desired result. For example 1 part tap water with 1 part RO water would give you exactly half of the GH of your tap water. The problem with small water changes is that they leave a lot of "bad stuff behind" - e.g. changing 10% of your water means you are leaving 90% of the bad stuff in the tank. It is for this reason that I change 75% every week(in my case that is 220 litres). A weekly 70% change is much better than a daily 10% change.

If by cleaning the gravel you mean vacuuming it this will not harm the beneficial bacteria in any way.
 
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JBFUK

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Thank you. I will measure/test everything and see where I am at with the GH/KH changes. As you suggest I can then mix a new batch to match that and do a large change. I was previously doing weekly changes of 10L (around 30%) but started doing the smaller daily changes to gradually adjust the hardness.

The impression I'd had from reading various things was that water changes were only required to control/reduce nitrates - so if the nitrate levels are good a large change is not required. Still have a lot to learn.
 

Deanasue

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Isn't aquarium salt bad for catfish? Perhaps I've read that somewhere but miss-understood. We lost another Oto over night and it wasn't even the one with the white patch. Not sure what's going on, I don't think the water quality is too bad - a tiny bit of Ammonia but I've reduced feeding to try to resolve that. It's the clearest it's ever been since I've started the small changes with RODI water which I've been doing since the weekend.

A 75% water change every day is a lot (24L based on 32L water in the 40L tank), I don't think I can manage that every day for weeks. Perhaps once followed by smaller changes but it concerns me that as I'm now reducing GH/KH with RO water that such a large change of water will harm the fish (osmotic shock?). Is this a valid concern? That's why I've been doing frequent small changes - to change these gradually. I'll do a full set of tests on the tank water later today to see where the GH/KH are at the moment.

Guess if still some way off the target I could just continue with smaller daily changes (perhaps a little larger, 5-6L) and also clean the gravel while doing that. I had stopped cleaning the gravel when changing water as I'd read a newbie mistake is cleaning the tank too much which disturbs bio-processes, bacteria colonies etc.

I'm glad that it doesn't seem to be Columnaris as that sounds really bad. What type of treatment is suggested? I take it Melafix and Primafix are not up to the task?
Yes, I’m sorry. You’ll need to move the affected tetras to a quarantine tank. It can be a simple plastic food container. Large water changes won’t hurt the fish. I’m currently doing 70% daily changes on a 20 Gallon tank. As @Colin_T says, “if you only do a 20% water change then your leaving 80% of the nasty bacteria in the tank”.
 
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JBFUK

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Well another Oto just passed, this time the one with the patch on its head/back. When I removed him it looks like something has eaten away at him. Is that not the 'saddleback' used to describe Columnaris? I also noticed the appearance of a white sheen on top of the water which is odd and I hadn't noticed this earlier this morning.

Will test the KH/GH/PH of the water now and mix a batch with similar parameters so I can perform a 75% change as suggested.

This fishkeeping really is difficult, I never imagined it would be such a lot of hassle.

On the plus side the plants are growing well.
 

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Sorry to hear about your fish, I have a dozen neon tetras and also 6 red eyed tetras and 5 ember. Please keep us informed if the treatment works. I am very interested,
 

utahfish

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In smaller tanks like yours medications can accumulate quickly and be harmful to scaleless fish like ottos. So could explain why they suddenly passed. Before treating id try to figure out what caused the sickness. Looking at your description your bioload isnt sustainable. General rule is 1 inch of fish/gallon with just 10 neons the tank is over as neons get about an inch and a half. Fish are more susceptible to disease when they are stressed, rummy nose are shoaling fish and need atleast 6 to feel safe, a ten Gallon is way too small for a Ram as they are territorial and do best in pairs or groups. A pair of Ram need no less than 20 gallons. Then the shrimp are large shrimp that add more to your bio load, unfortunately even if one is doing constant water changes to decrease bioload the fish in that tank will still be stressed due to not having proper numbers of each species and not enough room. Also whenever one does large water changes one is depleting beneficial bacteria whixh breaks down nitrates which increases nitrates adding more stress. Honestly until you get a bigger tank and some buddies for your rummys and Ram the fish will continue to get sixk, sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
 

Deanasue

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In smaller tanks like yours medications can accumulate quickly and be harmful to scaleless fish like ottos. So could explain why they suddenly passed. Before treating id try to figure out what caused the sickness. Looking at your description your bioload isnt sustainable. General rule is 1 inch of fish/gallon with just 10 neons the tank is over as neons get about an inch and a half. Fish are more susceptible to disease when they are stressed, rummy nose are shoaling fish and need atleast 6 to feel safe, a ten Gallon is way too small for a Ram as they are territorial and do best in pairs or groups. A pair of Ram need no less than 20 gallons. Then the shrimp are large shrimp that add more to your bio load, unfortunately even if one is doing constant water changes to decrease bioload the fish in that tank will still be stressed due to not having proper numbers of each species and not enough room. Also whenever one does large water changes one is depleting beneficial bacteria whixh breaks down nitrates which increases nitrates adding more stress. Honestly until you get a bigger tank and some buddies for your rummys and Ram the fish will continue to get sixk, sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
In smaller tanks like yours medications can accumulate quickly and be harmful to scaleless fish like ottos. So could explain why they suddenly passed. Before treating id try to figure out what caused the sickness. Looking at your description your bioload isnt sustainable. General rule is 1 inch of fish/gallon with just 10 neons the tank is over as neons get about an inch and a half. Fish are more susceptible to disease when they are stressed, rummy nose are shoaling fish and need atleast 6 to feel safe, a ten Gallon is way too small for a Ram as they are territorial and do best in pairs or groups. A pair of Ram need no less than 20 gallons. Then the shrimp are large shrimp that add more to your bio load, unfortunately even if one is doing constant water changes to decrease bioload the fish in that tank will still be stressed due to not having proper numbers of each species and not enough room. Also whenever one does large water changes one is depleting beneficial bacteria whixh breaks down nitrates which increases nitrates adding more stress. Honestly until you get a bigger tank and some buddies for your rummys and Ram the fish will continue to get sixk, sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
Very little, if any beneficial bacteria is in the water column. Doing large water changes will not hurt the beneficial bacteria. It’s also continually multiplying.
 

utahfish

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Very little, if any beneficial bacteria is in the water column. Doing large water changes will not hurt the beneficial bacteria. It’s also continually multiplying.
, you are correct majority of nitrifying bacteria is in filter and substrate and is continually multiplying so water changes dont effect the bacteria much. Having said that the tank in question is still over stocked which is more than the beneficial bacteria can handle and having a lone rummy will cause that fish stress and having a RAM in that small a tank will cause stress not just to the RAM but all the other inhabitants. Water changes and increased beneficial bacteria wont change that. Instead of treating the symptoms treat the source. Thankyou for the correction though hopefully this post is more clear.
 
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JBFUK

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Well thanks for the info. The rummy is fine, he hangs with the neons most of the time and seems happy enough. The Ram also seems happy and doesn't appear to get in to conflict with the other fish. It's a shame to hear that the tank is overstocked; it seems the pet store where I originally brought it and the local fish shop are both giving out bad advice. I am aware that the two bamboo shrimp struggle in this size tank as they occasionally rifle through the gravel rather than sticking to their usual filtering food out of the water flow. I do plan to move one or both of the shrimp to the 125L tank once I have it running.

It's interesting that you seem to suggest my filter cannot house enough beneficial bacteria for the stocking level when I don't think I have mentioned what size or type of filter I am using? Also if it's simply a case of x inches per gallon (prefer mm/L as inches and gallons are irrational units) I'm not sure how the fish shops run tanks absolutely packed with fish compared to my tank if it's purely based on inches of fish per gallon... anyhow..

I had to delay the water change for a few days for health reasons. I also wasn't able to turn my CO2 on/off and had a significant algae bloom of both brown and green/stringy algae. I don't know whether that was caused by the delay to the water change or the lack of CO2 for a period, perhaps a combination of these and other things. i have now ordered a solenoid so that I can have the CO2 controlled automatically.

I did a 70% water change, cleaned the gravel the best I could and cleaned the algae off of any of the other objects that I was able to remove (filter casing, heater, ornaments). There was a fair amount of algae attached to plants and in amongst the moss which I couldn't completely remove. After doing this I went to my LFS and discussed the issue. They seemed to suggest that the loss of the Otos could have been down to several things; they could have been sick before I brought them, could have been a reaction to the medicines or sometimes this type of thing just happens!?! They sold me two little baby siamese algae eaters to help tackle the algae problem. I was concerned that these can grow much too large for a small tank like this but the LFS said they will happily exchange them later if I feel they are outgrowing their home. I have to say those two little fish are very industrious - they haven't stopped munching away at algae, rummaging around in the moss, getting to all those bits I couldn't clean, they are really going at it and making the remaining Oto (and his late friends) look super lazy.. they were even nibbling on the shell that one of the bamboo shrimp shed yesterday.

Guess now I need to keep monitoring the water quality and will do a larger weekly water change rather than the small and frequent ones I was doing before.

The two neons with the mouth growths are still the same, they seem ok but still have the same growths. The growths may have reduced a little in size, or I may just have imagined that. Will post an update later on if I see any changes.

A couple of my plants have started looking sorry for themselves but I'll put up a separate post about that in the appropriate forum.
 
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JBFUK

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Just an update. A week after the large water change I've tested the water and it's still looking good. No ammonia or nitrite and nitrate is somewhere between 0-5ppm. The water is still crystal clear and the two siamese algae eaters have done an amazing job, there's not one bit of green algae left in amongst the plants/moss. Only sign of algae left is a bit of brown stuff growing on the gravel which I understand is pretty normal in a newish tank?

No more fatalities which is excellent. Fish all seem happy including the surviving Oto. The white growths on the two neons mouths are definitely reducing in size, in fact one has almost completely gone and the other has reduced by about 50% - so significantly smaller.

I'll continue with 10-12L weekly water changes (30%) and will keep a close eye on things, if anything starts to go south I'll do another large change.

Thanks for the help and advice.
 

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