Sick Discus

mark4785

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This thread follows on from an earlier thread in which some “aquarium” bogwood was bought from a LFS which lead to fish gasping. I use the term aquarium loosely as it was tantamount to dropping some kind of poison in the tank.

Since creating that thread 3 of my smallest juvenile discus have been eating ambivalently. Today none of them are eating any sort of food, even if it crosses them within 1-2 cm. Two of them have gone nearly jet black in colour and have a fast gill rate. These symptoms come and go and so are also ambivalent. There is no gasping from the other fish so this is not an oxygen issue. I have also noticed that all the fish are flashing to some degree though this is not often.

What may I be dealing with here?

Tank parameters

Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 15 ppm
Temp: 28.5 C
 

kribensis12

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Discus are extremely sensitive to poor water quality - and their concept of "poor water quality" is very different than something hardier like a Firemouth.

I would do everything within your power to keep the nitrates down to 0 - I would suggest doing a 50% water change.

What is the pH? What are their tank mates?
 

Colin_T

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Did you remove the wood from the tank?

Do a 75% water change and gravel clean the substrate every day for at least a week and see if it fixes the problem.
Make sure any new water is free of chlorine/ chloramine before it's added to the tank.

Fish can rub on objects if they have external parasites or if there is something in the water irritating them.

Post pictures and video of the fish so we can check them.

Pictures and water changes should be the first thing you do if a fish ever looks unwell or starts acting strangely.

If the fish breath normally after the water changes but continue to rub, simply raise the water temperature to 30C and keep it there for a few weeks. The high temperature will kill any white spot or velvet, and helps most discus recover if they are stressed out.
 
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mark4785

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pH is 6.5. I cant remove the nitrates as the plants require it to grow as they would in any other environment.

I have removed the 2 non-eating fish and put them in a separate tank. I’m slowly upping the temperature 34 degrees C. As they are flicking off of objects occasionally I have put Sterazin into the tank and will shortly add in salt.

I am debating whether to remove my plants (Vallisneria spiralis) from the main tank and just have a completely bare tank as without them it would be quicker and easier to up the temperature and use salt if they were not there.

I have not been able to get any pictures of the fish as they are hiding. They are basically very thin, not growing, go dark (then back to normal), not eating anything and are flicking.
 

Byron

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If this is a high-tech planted tank with diffused CO2 and mega light, then yes, nitrate is the safer form of nitrogen to be adding. But most species of aquatic plants do not need nitrate and they do not take it up, unless the ammonia/ammonium is insufficient to balance the light and other nutrients (hence my question about a high-tech vs low-tech/natural planted tank).

Nitrates do negatively impact fish. Cichlids are now understood to be especially sensitive to nitrates, and they should be kept as low as possible, certainly not above 20 ppm. Even 15ppm over time is weakening the fish in general terms.

Salt affects all freshwater plants to some degree; it basically "dries them out," even though they are growing in water. I don't know the levels for specific plants, but most times it is best to treat the tank for the disease and the plants if affected may rebound after. Removing th plants will stress the fish much more, and that you need to avoid as stress is the reason behind 90% of all fish disease. It weakens them, diverting critical energy to dealing with the stress and this is known to weaken the immune system, just as in humans. I wouldn't add salt here, the higher temp will deal with ich if that is the issue, and it well might given the stress issue. The less additives the better the chance the fish will recover, considering the specific issue is not known. Clean water.
 
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mark4785

mark4785

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If this is a high-tech planted tank with diffused CO2 and mega light, then yes, nitrate is the safer form of nitrogen to be adding. But most species of aquatic plants do not need nitrate and they do not take it up, unless the ammonia/ammonium is insufficient to balance the light and other nutrients (hence my question about a high-tech vs low-tech/natural planted tank).

Nitrates do negatively impact fish. Cichlids are now understood to be especially sensitive to nitrates, and they should be kept as low as possible, certainly not above 20 ppm. Even 15ppm over time is weakening the fish in general terms.

Salt affects all freshwater plants to some degree; it basically "dries them out," even though they are growing in water. I don't know the levels for specific plants, but most times it is best to treat the tank for the disease and the plants if affected may rebound after. Removing th plants will stress the fish much more, and that you need to avoid as stress is the reason behind 90% of all fish disease. It weakens them, diverting critical energy to dealing with the stress and this is known to weaken the immune system, just as in humans. I wouldn't add salt here, the higher temp will deal with ich if that is the issue, and it well might given the stress issue. The less additives the better the chance the fish will recover, considering the specific issue is not known. Clean water.

It is a high light aquarium and so the Vallis is requiring this particular macro-nutrient. Whenever I have issues with fish health the antecedent is always that I have added new stock which are inflicted with a disease which then just persists while they are in my care. The 2x sick discus, for instance, were not eating on day 1 of them being in my care. Eventually i got them to eat but a recent incident with adding bogwood to the aquarium which brought the oxygen levels down as assured that they stop eating again.

Unfortunately i cant accept that nitrates can have a noticeable effect on Discus since ive had Discus breed in water with 10-20 ppm of nitrates and subsequent fry. The aquarium is also home to a 7 year old Bolivian ram. We will have to agree to disagree on that one.

In regards to the plant, if it were to disintegrate due to a temperature increase or salt dosing would I be looking at it causing oxygen or water quality problems?
 
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Colin_T

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Nitrates do not occur in natural water ways, however 15ppm of nitrate is unlikely to be causing this.

Don't use chemicals, salt and heat at the same time because they all reduce the oxygen levels in the water. Combine this with additional CO2 and the oxygen levels could be too low for the fish. Either use heat or chemicals but not both.

Salt does nothing to white spot or velvet, but it will kill other external protozoan parasites like Costia, Chilodonella & Trichodina.

Whenever I have issues with fish health the antecedent is always that I have added new stock which are inflicted with a disease which then just persists while they are in my care.
Do you quarantine new fish for a month before adding them to the main display tank?
All new fish, plants, shrimp and snails should be quarantined for at least 2 (preferably 4) weeks before adding them to an established display tank so they don't introduce diseases into the main tank.
 
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mark4785

mark4785

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I always quarantine new plants but not new fish. In retrospect I should have quarantined the 3 new discus on finding that the dispatcher (I bought them online) had not packed them with a heater so this would have knocked their immune system a bit.

I have had the 2 sick Discus in a 20 litre aquarium for last 3 days with a temperature of 34 degrees C and an ich treatment since finding small lesions on them the size of salt grains. One of them has started eating normally and the other has started to put the food in its mouth then spit it out. I think things are heading in the right direction.

One fish in my main tank has also developed 2 small salt-sized lesions and the others are flicking off of objects occasionally too so I am treating the main tank and upped the temperature to 30 C. So far none of the fish in the main tank have stopped eating.
 
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mark4785

mark4785

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UPDATE: One of the fish in the quarantine tank is continuing to eat bloodworms to a greater extent, however it is not taking crisps or other formulated food which I guess can sometimes happen with fish.

The other fish in the tank is nipping at more pieces of bloodworm but is still largely spitting them out. I noticed it was going at the food more today compared to yesterday; today the tank temperature is lower (32 C instead of 34 C) and has less salt (half a tablespoon instead of a full tablespoon in 20 litres) so perhaps these conditions are more therapeutic.

If the problem-fish has not eaten anything by tomorrow I am considering force-feeding. I have heard on other discus forums that you can feed human baby food via a syringe. Does anybody know of any sources that explains what type of baby food and apparatus would be required here?
 

Colin_T

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Don't try to shove food down their mouth. Get some live brineshrimp, daphnia or mozzie larvae and try that.
 
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mark4785

mark4785

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Don't try to shove food down their mouth. Get some live brineshrimp, daphnia or mozzie larvae and try that.
I have been putting bloodworm in and frozen brineshrimp which looks as though it is alive because of the water flow moving it. One of the fish has recovered and is eating both but the other has only nipped at the food for a solid 6 days. It now looks very pale and wafer thin. I do not know what to do at this point.

Please find attached some photos of the state of the fish.

I could get some live brineshrimp if you really think it will work.
 

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Colin_T

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The fish is skinny and is probably dying. If it doesn't eat then it will die.

Maybe add a heap of plants and wood to offer it more protection.
See if the other discus in the tank is bullying it. Maybe separate them.

What does its poop look like?
 

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I know nothing about discus,but I found this if it helps.
 
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mark4785

mark4785

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The fish is skinny and is probably dying. If it doesn't eat then it will die.

Maybe add a heap of plants and wood to offer it more protection.
See if the other discus in the tank is bullying it. Maybe separate them.

What does its poop look like?

I will cautiously add back some bogwood and plants. You may recall that I added bogwood to the aquarium which caused low-oxygen conditions which ultimately lead to the discus becoming sick. I had moved the plants to get a better view because the 2 fish were hiding behind them.

The fish last had a normal black/dark brown motion but this was well over 7 days ago.
 

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