Monday, August 8, 2016

Fish Sickness, part 2

This one might be a bit more organized.
Recap from the last post: I have 4 betta in a split 20 tank with good parms*. One of them has a symptom called popeye. The other three have problems that wouldn't be a concern for a single fish, but having four fish with these conditions together points to a bacterial infection. The whole tank is being treated with a 4-day treatment of API's Tetracycline. Tetracycline is a broad-spectrum antibiotic.

So, treatment day 2:
STEP 1: Water parameters. Something I forgot to mention is that if you're doing a several day course of treatment, you can't do water changes during. This means if your nitrates are at 35, you'll want to do a change before you do the treatment, to prevent them from going over 40.

Even if all the water parameters were fine yesterday, test them again today. This double-checks that your tests were right the first time, and it's important to know anyway. If your water quality is not perfect, always fix that before going to another treatment, unless the symptoms are life-threatening.

My tank temp is between 78 and 82. Because of the dividers, some parts of the tank are cooler than others. I have two thermometers to make sure the warm sections don't get too warm, and the cool sections don't get too cold.

I tested my ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate and came up with 0/0/10, which is good and normal. It's important to test your water ~12 hours after putting a treatment in your tank, in case it killed some of your filter bacteria.

The surface of my tank is covered with foam. This is from the tetracycline, and as long as it's not interfering with  the fish's ability to breathe, I'm willing to just keep stirring it back into the water. If I was running a hang-on-back or internal filter, I'd probably have the foam in the water chamber. Undergravel filters don't have a water chamber, so it comes out on the top of the water instead. I googled "API Tetracycline foam" to double check. Google is your friend for whenever you don't know what to do.

STEP 2: Now it's time to look at the fish. Because Twister is my sick boy, and because he was easy to cup, I put him in a cup for a few minutes to get a good look at his eye. It's still cloudy and swollen. Bo and Mr Tipsy's tumors (which both look like internal tumors, but could also be hemorrhagic septicemia, which is also bacterial) are still the same size. Bo's fins look like normal, as do Fierce Mango's. I'm feeling extremely stupid at this point for assuming that all my fish had unrelated, non-contagious diseases. That's the problem with google. You search until you find an answer that sounds right or feels right, and then you stop looking.
We all make mistakes. What's important is that, when you realize you made a mistake, you admit it and re-evaluate your plan of action.

The good news is that tetracycline can treat bacterial fin rot, popeye, and hemorrhagic septicemia, if they're all caused by the same bacteria. Since this is a shared tank, there's a good chance that's the case.

STEP 3: Take a look at your fish and make sure your plan of action is still a good plan.
First things first: Have you already started a treatment? In my case, I have. If you've already started a medicine, you need to do the complete treatment, even if the fish look or act like they've healed. Do you want antibiotic resistant bacteria? Because running an incomplete course of antibiotics is how you get antibiotic resistant bacteria.
The only exception to this is if the fish is having trouble breathing after you put the treatment in, but wasn't before you did. If it looks like the fish is having trouble breathing with the treatment in the water, you need to get them out of there.
Did you do any non-medicine treatments? These include aquarium salt added to the water or aquarium salt baths and epsom salt baths. Do those things look like they've helped? If it helped, do it again.
Do the symptoms look worse? More swollen, more ragged, anything? This might mean that you need to get more aggressive with your treatment.
How's the fish acting? Did he go from being active to being withdrawn? Did he go from swimming to lying on the floor? Is he having trouble breathing, staying afloat, or sinking? Did he go from withdrawn and back to active? Behavior is a good way to judge how your fish is feeling.

STEP 4: So now what?
If your water quality was bad, and your fish is not having any life-threatening symptoms, wait to see if their condition gets better with clean water.
If the fish had damaged fins or sides from contact with another fish or decor in his tank, are the edges of the wound looking infected? Are they looking like they're healing? Does he have new damage?
If the treatment was working, keep doing it. If you started a medicine, keep treating until you've finished the course.
If the treatment wasn't working, or wasn't working well enough, look for other options or ways to make the treatment stronger. Now might be a time to add medication, if you weren't already using it. Remember to check if you can continue salt baths or adding salt to your water while using another medication. Don't mix treatments unless you know they won't interact.
If the treatment's working, but there are other life-threatening symptoms, you need to treat those too. Sometimes you need to do whatever you can to keep the swelling down, so the antibiotic can cure the infection before the fish dies of the swelling.
If the fish is significantly worse and clearly suffering, now might be a good time to buy clove oil in case you have to put him down. It's not easy to think about it, but it helps to have it on hand.

It's frustrating, but there's a lot of taking care of sick fish that's just about waiting and watching.

It's also scary, because betta fish are small and can go into organ failure quickly and without a lot of outward warning signs, so keeping an eye on them is important.

Quick note on bettafix: I wrote a song about bettafix. It goes bettafix isn't an antibiotic. Bettafix is an antiseptic. Don't use bettafix on things it isn't designed to treat.
And then you repeat that for five hours. I have an EP i'm releasing in april.
Also, when using bettafix, watch out for an oily shine on the water. If you see that, skim it off. A lot of people say it can damage a betta's lung-like labyrinth organ.
In general, there are treatments out there other than bettafix, and bettafix is popular because it's so cheap. Like with any treatment you use on your fish, google is your friend. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

unorganized information about sicknesses

Twister the betta's got popeye going on, and I"m hoping that's not what's causing all the minor little problems in my tank.
For those of you who didn't do your basic Betta Fish Popeye reading, let's have some review:
  • ~Popeye is when your fish's eye gets swollen and sticks out of the head a bit. In Twister's case, it's also cloudy. I'll see if I can take a picture tomorrow, but he's asleep right now and I'm not going to stress out my sick fish unnecessarily for the sake of educating your guys, sorry. There's pictures on google.
  • ~Popeye is a symptom, not a disease. The actual cause can be a bacteria, virus, or fungus.
  • ~Because of this, if you treat for the wrong thing, it's not going to do any good. You need to know what the cause is.
Okay, so here's what I'm doing, complete with abuse of the formatting tools. If anyone out there thinks I'm doing the wrong thing or has any advice, let me know! I'm not a 100% fish expert, I can be wrong, and I don't want my fish to die, so I'm going to listen to anyone with any advice. (I'll translate this for the non fish people in case you just love my writing or something)
1) Like with all fish shit, first thing to look at when a fish is sick is tank parms. Mine's a split 20l with 4 male betta, cycled UGF, 78 degrees, 0/0/15 
*(Translation: 20L is a size of tank, 4 male betta live in it, "split" means I'm not a nutbag trying to keep 4 violent fish with each other. Their spaces are split, but their water is shared, so they all have been exposed to whatever made Twister sick. Cycled means it's established the nitrogen cycle and ammonia waste is being converted into nitrate by the bacterial filter. UGF is a type of filter. Sometimes people ask what kind of filter because certain filters are known to be unstable, and some don't have good places for filter-bacteria colonies to grow, so it's always a good idea to mention. 78 degrees is the temperature of the tank, and 0/0/15 is my ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. Everyone lists them in the ammonia-nitrIte-nitrAte order, pretty much always. "parms" is short for "parameters" and not "parmesans")
If you're asking for fish help, always provide this information up front.
Even though I know that my water stays in the good range with my current maintenance schedule, I still checked this anyway. I use API's liquid ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate tests. I don't like test strips, because they expire much more quickly, and lose accuracy.
WHAT THIS MEANS: In any case where your betta is sick, if the water isn't 76-82 degrees or your water levels aren't 0/0/<40, the first step is to make that happen. I say it every time I talk about betta help, MOST BETTA SICKNESS IS CAUSED BY BAD WATER QUALITY.
If the water was bad, the first thing I would do is change the water to get it to the right level. Then, if it's not immediately life-threatening, I'll give it 24 hours of careful watching but no further treatment.
In my case, the water's fine. Depending on the sickness, I might boost the heat of the filter, but I'm not going to do that until I know what's causing the sickness.

2) Step two is to look for other symptoms. That's right, you make sure the water's right before you look for other symptoms. If the water's not right, that needs to be fixed. Nothing else matters until the water quality is better. You can't tell what symptoms are sickness and what symptoms are water quality until you get the water quality in line. 
The first thing is to look for any life-threatening symptoms. Is the sick fish sitting on the bottom, panting or gasping? If you've got a community tank like mine, you need to look at all the fish. Anyone on the bottom struggling to breathe? Is anyone bloated or swollen around their middle? This can be a sign of organ failure, especially if they also have scales sticking out. Does anyone have fuzzy things around their mouths? This is the sign of columnaris, which is a nasty bacterial infection that needs fast treatment.
If I see any of those, there's no time to wait. Something needs to be done and it needs to be done fast. I usually pull the fish into a hospital tank of new water, so I can get a better look at them and look for anything else. Swollen fish get epsom salts, obvious bacterial infections get antibiotics, and so on.

Other symptoms <list in incomplete. Always google your symptoms*>
Fungal/Parasitic: fuzzy spots not on the mouth, raised white dots, gold dusting that shines under a flashlight, indent-lookin' thing between the eyes
Bacterial: sores, cloudy eyes, ragged fins that won't go away with clean water
Other: torn fins that showed up suddenly, things that look like physical damage
Long-term: tumors, scars, the suchlike. 

My tank's symptoms:
Twister: the stickin' out eye. No fin damage or rot, no body damage, no lumps or scars. Nice iridescent shine. Acting withdrawn and has been spending time at the back of the tank, sleeping on plants or the floor. Has been withdrawn for maybe 3 days. No trouble moving or floating. Breathing normal. Not struggling to reach the surface. Swimming normally, but less active. Good weight.
Bo: Swimming normally and actively. Iridescent like normal. Raggedy fins that have been refusing to grow properly for over a year (can be the sign of a bacterial infection, but I'd chalked it up to bad genetics). Internal tumor-like lump (could be bacterial) showing through his skin that's been there for 3+ months. Good weight.
Mr Tipsy: Mr Tipsy has some fucked up genetics. Skinny due to not eating well due to mouth that doesn't close. Tumor-like lump on one side that's been there for 5+ months, tumor-like lump on the other side that's been there for 3+ months. Not iridescent and never has been, so useless diagnostic criteria. No fin damage or rot. Swimming normally.
Fierce Mango: Black tips on his tail rays (can be bacterial but could also be coloring). Growing normally and eating and swimming well. 

All in all, what I saw with my fish was several things that, on their own, weren't worrying me (except Twister's eye), but when looking at the whole tank, made me think bacteria. Since I'd treated the whole tank with prazi (an antifungal) less than 6 months ago and nothing new had been introduced except Fmango (who had also been treated with prazi when I got him), I thought bacteria was more likely than fungal. 
If your fish is sick, but not looking life-threatening, it's usually better to start with an antifungal than an antibiotic. Antifungals don't make resistant bacteria and they're more easily processed by the kidneys of the fish.
If your fish has damage, like a torn fin or a wound, bettafix is an okay product. Bettafix is an antiseptic, not an antibiotic. It doesn't do anything for internal infections. It doesn't do anything for bacterial problems that aren't cuts or scrapes. Think of it like fish neosporin. Also, if you see an oily sheen on your water, do a big change right away. The oil in bettafix is actively bad for their fish lungs.
If I thought it was viral, all I could do would be to separate the sick fish, empty and clean the whole tank, leave it to dry for a few days, and reassemble it.

But since I had good reason to believe that it's bacterial, I stuck two packets of API tetracycline in the water in agreement with the package directions, and now I wait and keep following the instructions. 
Because I had good reason to think everyone was exposed, I'm treating the whole tank instead of excluding Twister. 
 When you're using an antibiotic, it's extremely important to follow the instructions exactly and to use the proper dose for the proper length of time. Antibiotic resistant bacteria are a real thing and they're scary and you don't want them in your tank. 
Because I'm really tired, the story ends here for tonight.

*75% of my betta care is googleing shit for other people