So you just couldn’t resist the temptation to buy that new exotic looking fish from the pet shop. “Just came in yesterday! Healthy as a horse!” says the sixteen-year-old net-wielding pimple. What he failed to mention, however, was that this fine fish specimen is the lone survivor out of well over a dozen. So you take your trophy home with you to introduce him to all his new tankmates. Only later do you realize that your scaly new friend was not the only thing you introduced. The next morning you notice your fish has a white spot on his tail fin. Later that evening you notice another spot on one of the pectoral fins. Before long, other aquarium tenants are showing similar symptoms. Do not fret! You are dealing with the common fish disease called Ick (Ich), or White Spot. Latin name: Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. Aren’t you glad it got shortened?
Ick (ich) or White Spot, is assuredly the most common aquarium fish disease that hobbyists come up against. Ichthyophthirius multifiliis is a parasitic protozoan. If proper attention is paid to your fish, symptoms can usually be caught early and treated with ease. The most noticeable symptom is the occurrence of small raised white spots on your fish. In severe cases it looks as though salt was sprinkled all over your fish’s body. These white spots can sometimes be accompanied by red streaks. Fish with Ick will often flick their bodies against rocks, gravel or other aquarium decorations in an attempt to scratch the itch caused by the ick. Another symptom, though a little harder to diagnose, is heavy or rapid breathing. This can be the result of ick attacking the gills. But beware, it is possible that the rapid breathing may be caused by something other than ick.
Ick Symptoms and Prevention
Maintain high water quality. Monthly water changes of 25-30% are a must. If you keep large predators you should do bimonthly water changes as these fish can produce a lot of concentrated waste.
Do not overfeed. Feed only what the fish can consume in a couple of minutes. Experiment with amounts. When fish begin to take in food and spit it out, they have had enough. Excess food can foul water and cause stress, making fish more susceptible to illness.
Provide hiding places and vegetation. This is especially important for new inhabitants, as they may be nervous for quite some time in a new tank. Other types of fish simply prefer the seclusion of a cave or the security of a plant to blend into. A happy fish is a healthy fish.
Make sure all fish are compatible. If you are uncertain about a fish, do research. Adding aggressive fish to a peaceful tank or even adding very active fish to an otherwise rather subdued tank can cause unnecessary stress and thus lower a fish’s immunity.
Quarantine your fish. When acquiring new fish or treating your current sick fish, use a small (10 or 20gal) aquarium as a quarantine tank. Allow new fish and plants to live in quarantine for about two weeks before introducing them to your show tank. This way you can make sure they are healthy and will not introduce disease to your already established fish. This can also make it easier and cheaper to treat the fish. You will not be medicating fish that don’t need it, and if your quarantine tank is smaller than your show tank, you will use less medication.
On occasion, despite all your efforts, prevention of the fish disease ick will fail. Lucky for you tropical fish ick treatment is fairly simple. There are many effective medications on the market for both tropical and gold fish ick. In most cases adding drops straight to the aquarium can easily kill Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. When looking for an effective ick medicine, I have found products containing the active ingredient Malachite Green to be quite dependable. Fish ick can also be cured with ich medications containing Chelated Copper Sulfate, which can treat your water for up to a month. Even if you do not have fish ich at this moment, there is a 99% chance that your aquarium will acquire this fish disease at some time. I recommend keeping ich medicine on hand at all times. This is due to the fact that, in my own experience, I find that ick symptoms are usually noticed on the weekends or in the evenings after work when it is not possible to get to the fish store. Knowing how to cure ick is very important for all hobbyists. Doing it properly is just as important. Make certain to read and follow the instructions on the back of your ick medication very closely.
Natural Ick Treatment
Aquarium salt & Warmer Temperatures. Warmer temps (80-82F) increase the speed of the ick parasite’s lifecycle, which makes eradication a faster process. Aquarium salt not only aids in the gill function and osmoregulation of fish, it has also been shown to kill the ich parasite when it reaches the part of its lifecycle where it leaves the safety of the fish’s skin.