Skinny Bolivian Ram - sickness? - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 17 Old 05-22-2012, 08:27 PM Thread Starter
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Skinny Bolivian Ram - sickness?

Hello all! I'm excited to finally be able to post in the CICHLID section! I wish it wasn't due to a possible problem, but proud new owner nevertheless! I'm in LOVE with these guys! *points to new avatar*

After loads of research, I brought 4 little Bolivian Rams home 2 weeks ago. They settled right in, and all have grown a bit and plumped up since coming to live with me - all except one, and he's the one that I'm worried about!

He's so skinny! Poor little thing. . .
All of them are about 1.5 inches long - from tip to tip - but this one has been my 'runt' since day 1. He's slightly smaller than the others, and at the bottom of the newly-establishing hierarchy. Aside from his scrawny tummy and small size, the only other thing that sets him apart from the others is that his stripes are very obviously darker. (I've read that this can be a sign of stress, his way of letting the bigger fish know that he's submissive, or coloring up for mating - that's a lot of options!). . . Otherwise, he swims with the others, scraps with them at mealtimes, and eats well. There is no hiding, flashing, heavy respiration - he behaves in every way like the other three, and isn't being targeted or picked on any more than the others as they establish their territories. I feed my whole tank a combination of flake food (which they all eat with no problems), and many different types of wet-frozen foods, including: bloodworm, mysis, krill, brine, Daphna. . . I also regularly toss in blanched veggies - so he's getting a great variety of foods, and doesn't seem to be picky at all. I've been watching for feces, but haven't been able to catch him in the act, so to speak, so I have no idea about that. As for his vent. . . I can't even see it (assuming this one is a male?) so I'm guessing it isn't swollen, and there definitely aren't any visible worms there.

For reference, here are images of the other three, not so skinny BRs. . . (sorry, its 3 shots of each - I was comparing ;))

The coloration on these photos has been intensified by the flash, which I used to get very clear shots of all four of them. You can see that their tummies are rounded. Their vents are also really obvious - so I'm assuming these three are females? (feel free to let me know gender, if you can - I'm really curious about this, too!)

Here is an image of the tank where they live , that will show you more truthfully their actual coloration - my scrawny stripey guy is on the far left:

This is a fully cycled 29 gallon TALL tank. Ammonia, nitrite, phosphates all at 0, and nitrate hangs around 2.5ppm. PH sits at 7.6, Gh is 6, and Kh is super low at 2dgh, temperature is usually between 77-78 (maybe a bit cool for the rams?).

I have a 10g hospital tank that I can move him into if he needs to be kept on his own. . .

Thanks in advance for reading, and for any help and advice you can give me to keep this little guy (and his buddies) healthy and thriving.
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post #2 of 17 Old 05-22-2012, 10:44 PM
My Bolivian only eats pellets I feed everything else including fozen brine shrimp and bloodworm but he only eats pellets and hops around with them in his mouth and hides them in the back and then eats. I do notice in the picture with your "skinny" Bolivian in the corner his fin is down so he is being submissive to another. Can you tell their Sexes, also what is the size of the tank I was told with my 30 gallon I could only have one or 2.

I had a loach that was the same everyone was growing and he wasn't he was being bullied by the other loaches, he still hides most of the time but caught up to everyone I thought he was not going to make it but he did he is the same size now
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post #3 of 17 Old 05-22-2012, 11:28 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for your input!

I know some Rams can be very fussy about what they eat, but in this case there is absolutley NO doubt that he's eating. I pay very close attention to my fish at feeding time - most especially the skinny one! Thus far, all four of mine have eaten everything I've offered, and they seem to have no problems going up to the surface to snatch a bite or two before it falls to the lower levels of the tank. . .

Skinnyboy IS the lowest in the current chain of command, likely because he's so small, but there has been no aggressive bullying whatsoever. His fin is not down any more than any of the others, and the 'aggression' I see from them is evenly distributed, gentle, and not excessive - mostly during mealtimes, when I get to watch them head-butt each other and lip lock (LOVE THESE FISH!), but they all eat well in the end. Skinny (his name is C.Cat, lol) wins his fair share of the arguments, too. . . They've all chosen their own little territories in the tank but are more or less welcoming of the others into their domain. They all swim together as a rule, and seem perfectly happy as a group!

My tank is a 29tall, and I've read a lot of differing opinions on how many should be kept together and in what size tank. Some say it is best to keep them alone, or in a previously bonded pair ONLY. Others seem to feel that it is best to keep them in a group of 5-6+, as they behave completely differently in a social situation. . .OR to get 6+ juvies until an obvious pair forms and re-home the rest. I'm kind of walking the middle ground with four! I'm not worried about the quality of the water or overstocking in any way. . . I test the water frequently - the parameters of this tank are very stable, and it is not overstocked. My only concern (atm) with tank size is if they will have room to keep their territories as they grow, and if there will be any trouble *if* they choose to spawn. Watching this closely, and I will be able to move any troublemakers into another tank if it should come to that. Gender and mating will likely play a huge roll in how well they continue to get along as they mature, I imagine - and I'm not 100% sure on gender, but am guessing that my only male is the skinny one, and that the other three are females. This is based on the size and shape of their vent, and it is very likely that I'm wrong, but otherwise each fish has some of the characteristics that are supposed to be dominant in one gender only. If you have any guesses as to gender, I'd love to hear them! I'd love to have that pinned down if it can be!

Good to hear about your skinny loach, and that he was fine! Maybe I'm just worried over nothing. . . I can read things until my eyes fall out - it's still always a good thing to get the opinions of those who have kept them personally, so I appreciate your reply! Thank you!

Last edited by Chesh; 05-22-2012 at 11:36 PM.
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post #4 of 17 Old 05-23-2012, 06:57 AM
I wish I could tell genders on these lovely fish by far my favorite I would like to get a mate for mine when I purchased one I was told because we have hard water that a Bolivian Ram might not survive in my aquarium to test with one and he is doing great I would like to get another of the opposite sex for him or her.

Yes you might be a worrier and I was told by my LFS that I read to much and over react too much running in there everytime I think something is wrong but thats me enjoy your Bolivian Rams
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post #5 of 17 Old 05-23-2012, 07:20 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by boxercrazy156 View Post
Yes you might be a worrier and I was told by my LFS that I read to much and over react too much running in there everytime I think something is wrong but thats me enjoy your Bolivian Rams
LOL! You might be right - but in MY opinion, it can never hurt to learn something new - or seek the advice of others! Thanks for your reply - you should snag a picture of your little friend and post it up - maybe you'll finally get your gender answer!
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post #6 of 17 Old 05-23-2012, 01:18 PM
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Sorry, I don't have an answer to your questions, but I must say you take excellent pictures!

I use a DSLR, but haven't quite figured out how to get good photos. If I use the flash, the colors are terribly off, but it stresses the fish anyways so I don't use the flash at all. I've been using a 50 mm prime lens with a f/1.8 aperture to collect as much light as possible. The depth of field is terrible, but I'm able to use a fast enough shudder speed and high enough ISO to keep motion blur down.

The depth of field kills me though >.>

I'm a total amateur though so it's all trial and error guesswork ;)

My only comment is as I believe you mentioned I think these guys need 80 degrees minimum? I think I read that when I was searching for fish, but my cory's can't take that high of a temperature so I moved on.
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post #7 of 17 Old 05-23-2012, 01:52 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks, Geo - advice from you is always welcomed!

You're right - I do know that they prefer a warmer tank than many other fish - but the truth between natural and tank/farm-raised fish gets so convoluted! I KNOW if they're to spawn the temp needs to go up, but the general temperature 'range' for this species everywhere I've looked is pretty broad! The profile on this site shows 72-80F - the difference between what you can keep in a tank at 72 degrees and a tank kept at 80 is. . . HUGE! I'm still investigating this one, too!

Gah, tank photography is just IMPOSSIBLE! Thanks so much for your compliment *blushes* I've been fairly determined to figure this out, but between shooting under only a SINGLE low light and battling reflections on the glass. . . well, lets just say I'm SUPER happy to get any decent shots at all! Flash really does make a huge difference in coloration - drives me nuts. I don't use the flash for the most part, because I know it isn't good for the fish as well as because of color distortion, but in this case I really wanted to capture decently clear images of their bodies for comparison - as opposed to proper coloration. . . *shakes head* I have an older DSLR, and have tried so many combinations to get this right! I find that when I am able to capture a clear shot of the fish, the tops of the driftwood and plants get blown out highlights. If the camera is adjusted properly for the lighting - the fish blur! Still working on it - like you said, trial and error and guesswork, lol! If I ever find the magical settings, I'll be sure to let you know!

BTW, I don't know if I've ever told you how much I LOVE your avatar (and your screen name)! Black mages rock, and FF is one of the best games ever invented. Flat out, hands down, period, and forever. ;) I was super lucky last year and got to meet Nobuo Uematsu, get his autograph, and hear his music preformed by a symphony orchestra. Talk about awesome! Yeah, I'm a nerd!

Last edited by Chesh; 05-23-2012 at 01:58 PM.
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post #8 of 17 Old 05-26-2012, 12:59 AM
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I apologize for how long it has taken me to get here to address this post. My schedule is so very busy right now (I have a sick macaw that needs a lot of care on top of my already busy work schedule and other things...).

I have read through this post and looked through the photos posted here. I find it unlikely that this is intestinal worms (not impossible, but unlikely) and more likely that it is either protozoan or amoebae in nature. My suggestion is to feed flake or pellet food treated with Metronidazole. This is safe for all of the fish in the tank that you mentioned to me, so there should be no worries about the others who may eat some of it... however, with that said, if this were my fish, I would be moving it to a quarantine tank and treating it there just to make everything easier to track for progress or decline and to help avoid any stress from the other fish in regards to dominance and aggressive behaviors. Quarantine would be much more conducive to recovery than the main tank.

I would do a full 14 days of medicated food, but don't medicate the water. You want the fish to ingest the medication so it gets directly to the problem the fastest and most direct way possible. If this were external then treating the water would be appropriate.

I'm sorry for such a rushed post tonight but my bird is very sick and I need to get back and attend to his needs. If you need guidance on how to treat the food, set up quarantine, etc. I am sure Byron can step in and guide you through that safely, as he has just gone through this same treatment himself. I will likely be away tomorrow (vet appointment) but if my assistance is needed further here, feel free to pm me and ask me to return or ask Byron to contact me via email. I will get back as soon as I'm able, but not sure what day this weekend that will be.

Best of luck to you and your fish!

Dawn Moneyhan
Aquatics Specialist/Nutritionist
Juneau, WI
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post #9 of 17 Old 05-26-2012, 06:53 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you for taking the time to look through my post, Dawn - I really appreciate your advice. I've moved him to the QT tank already, and will be bugging Byron for further advice (poor Byron).

I hope your Macaw recovers quickly :( Good luck at the vet!
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post #10 of 17 Old 05-26-2012, 09:12 AM
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Here's how I handled this treatment.

I used Metro+ made by Aquarium Solutions. It happened to be the only product with metronidazole that I could get locally at the time. In another thread yesterday,
Lone female diamond tetra
Gwen mentioned Jungle Labs medicated food which also contains metronidazole; I have briefly scanned that thread this morning and note that Dawn recommends pure metro if you can. I can't, so I used the Metro+.

Select a prepared dry food that the fish likes to eat (some foods are more "preferred" than others) such as a flake, and place roughly a 2-week ration in a clean zip-lock bag. Add a sprinkling of the metro powder; I didn't measure, just sprinkled some in. Seal the bag and shake it around. Over time, the oils in the flakes will take up the metro. Each day, feed the fish with this food. A period of 14 days.

Bolivians feed from the bottom, not the surface of course, so this gets a bit trickier. If the fish is isolated, you could use the flake and when adding it immediately stir it into the tank so it sinks rapidly. If you use sinking foods like shrimp pellets, do the same process with the bag, but when you feed put a few pellets in a small jar with the Metro and add a tiny bit of water, just enough to get the food wet so it absorbs the water and hopefully some of the metro.

If there are other fish in the tank, they can eat this too. The protozoan is contagious, I introduced it with new fish and it killed off quite a few of my older fish rapidly. Feed nothing but medicated foods for the 14 days.

We are fortunate to have a member with Dawn's considerable experience in this area of health. She has saved my fish twice over the past couple of years when nothing else worked. Dawn is going through a rough patch at present as she mentioned, but she is very dedicated to assisting us and I'm sure will be checking back when she can.


Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]

Last edited by Byron; 05-26-2012 at 09:24 AM.
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