Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources (
-   Tropical Fish Diseases (
-   -   I'm living a nightmare--Columnaris (

RackinRocky 08-15-2012 10:27 PM

I'm living a nightmare--Columnaris
Well, I never thought I'd be posting this, but the terrible, virulent form of Columnaris in my tank is back. I did everything that was suggested. Was told here and other forums that a month after my last fish had died should be safe to start adding new fish.

Well, after all the medications, watching fish die, then they stopped dying, and I put them back in their big tank, all was well. For exactly one month. Everyone looked so healthy. So I went out this morning and thank goodness I only found two fish I wanted. Two sunset platies. Planned on going out tomorrow and starting to replace my female bettas.

Well, I looked at one of my female bettas that was one of the first ones I got 6 months ago, and she had two big red sores on her, and white all over her scales. My heart just dropped. I couldn't believe it. She had been eating a little less lately, but I hadn't thought much of it, as she looked and acted fine otherwise. I knew, from what had happened with past fish that she'd be dead in the morning, and I didn't want to leave her in the tank with my other fish, so I did the freezer deal. I feel rotten.

I couldn't put her in my hospital tank, as that's where the two new platies are in quarantine. I knew she wouldn't make it anyway. Anytime I saw that white on their mouth or gills, they were gone within 12 hours. Now the new platies will be exposed too, as the hospital tank also had Columnaris in it, of course.

I've lost 9 fish now. I have 10 left, not including the two new platies. I don't know what to do. I can't tear down the tank, as where would I put the fish I have in there? I'm just this far from really giving up this time. Even if no one else gets sick, how will I know when its really safe? 3 months? 6 months? Obviously, a month wasn't long enough. Do I treat the big tank this time? Even though no one else is showing signs? (Last time I didn't-just moved sick fish to the hospital tank). I'm just in shock that it showed up again after all this time, and so mad at myself for getting new fish that I'm probably sentencing to death.

Chesh 08-16-2012 12:03 AM

Rocky. . . I. . . have no words to express how distraught I am to find you here again. And again I wish I had some advice to offer. . . I think you did the right thing for the poor Betta. I know it was a hard call, but you really did save her from suffering more than she had to. And you can't give up! You just can't!

I don't think, unless you do a full tank tear-down, sanitize, dry out, and set up that you'll ever really be rid of this, and I don't know if this is one of the situations where stress brings these issues up while they may lie dormant otherwise. . . if it is, it could be that your betta was weakened from the previous illness, or perhaps getting old, and her failing system allowed it to take hold and bring her down. I don't think you can sterilize a tank with fish in it, and even if you could, those same fish would carry it right back in. . . Your treatment worked last time, I would be very much inclined to treat the main tank, but I have less experience with this stuff than even you do at this point, and I know you mentioned how costly it is.

Who is living in the tank now? I know you have little Enchilada. . .but I'm not sure what else is stocked in there. What I'm wondering is if there could be something that is causing the fish in the tank to be stressed, or if you have possible compatibility issues. . . I admit that I'm drawing at straws here, but there must be something triggering this - there has to be! Do you have any new shots of the tank/setup itself as a whole? Can you post what your water hardness and normal temperature is? How high are the nitrates in the tank - anything you can think of, put it down. . . we'll figure this out, we WILL!

*hugs* Oh, Rocky. . . I'm so sorry!

Snappyarcher 08-16-2012 11:17 AM

Do me a favour rocky.... take some pictures of the symptomatics and post them on here... lets take a look and see what we are dealing with.

RackinRocky 08-16-2012 02:14 PM

Thanks so much, Ches. I know I can depend on you to lend a shoulder!

I have no pics of the symptomanics unfortunately, Snapper. I should have taken pics of the fish I lost yesterday, but I was so distraught I didn't even think about it. All I can say is she was listless last night, and had a dull look in her eyes, the same way a very ill person does. She had two red sores on her body, and her underside was very red too. She had white (not fluffy) stuff all over her gills. She was FINE the day before, since I spend time my fish daily.

The tank stays between 79-81 in the daytime, and drops about 2 degrees at night. My PH is 8.0. My Ammonia is 0, nitrites 0, and nitrates stays between 10-20. 30% water change every week, sooner if nitrates get up to 30. I changed one filter cartridge, and was told to change the other in one month (by someone here, I think). Its only been 2 weeks, so the second one has not been changed yet.

I can see no reason for the fish to be stressed. I'm with them for hours a day (I work from my computer and the tanks are only 2-3 feet away from me. I observe closely when I feed, and everyone gets their share. There are no aggressive fish in there that are causing stress. Just the occasional chase that only lasts for about 4 inches, over food. Everyone gets along incredibly well. I have no males, just females. The only male in the tank is the Bolivian Ram..

I currently have the one female betta left, 4 balloon Mollies, 3 platies, a Corey and the Bolivian Ram in that tank.

Sadly, I can't afford to medicate a 55 gallon tank. Last time I just put fish that showed signs in my 10 gallon hospital tank and medicated with Maracyn and Maracyn Two. It would cost a fortune to medicate the 55, as you use 1 packet per 10 gallons for 5 days, and that's with two medications. I'd have to be using 5 packets a day of EACH medication. That's 60 packets for one course of treatment ( considering I'd have to double the meds on the first day), and there are only 8 packets to a box (to get the 14 pack, I'd have to order online, and that would take close to a week to receive). They charge $12 for a box of 8 packets here. See what I mean?

And I agree with you, Ches. Even if I tore down the tank, I'd be putting the fish back in there, (and still have to cycle it, by the way, which is yet another stress) and the fish would still be carrying the Columnaris, and would re-infect the tank. So, other than doing away with all the fish, and breaking down the tank, it seems there is no getting away from this "thing" that is killing my fish. Should I just wait it out and see what happens, or is there a less expensive med I can try? I'm so worried and upset that I could hardly sleep last night.

Chesh 08-17-2012 05:27 AM

I sincerely wish that my shoulders were all it took to fix things for you, and make this all go away. . .*cries* I know you take great care of your fish, dear, that's exactly the reason why I don't want you to give up on the hobby. We need more caring people like you out there. . . I am so proud of you - and let me just say how amazed I am by your little Enchilada! He's done so well through all of this - and Mollies, well they own my heart, too. :-) Stay strong, little ones!!!

You're right, that med IS super expensive. . . ug. I'm wondering . . . if we're sure that this IS Columnaris that we're dealing with - and praying that it isn't, even though that means we're at square one. On the last thread, you had already determined that it was columnaris, and started treating before you posted, but fishy illnesses can be really tricky to diagnose. Just to be clear, I am in no way experienced enough to even TRY to diagnose a fish (Snappy will tell you, I run to him every time I see the slightest hint of anything that might be of concern - drive that poor man crazy), but I'm sure this is why he was asking for a picture. . . You mentioned red sores, and there are several things that pop into my mind that can carry that symptom - from bacterial infections, to parasites, to everything in-between. To make things even more tricky, often what we see on the fish's body are due to secondary infections that crop up because the fish is already in distress. White and/or fluffy often *can* fall into this category, as various fungal issues seem to be ready and waiting in every tank to take advantage whenever conditions are ripe. I'm not saying you're wrong. . . but lets back up and start over from scratch - and try to pretend that the last round of sickness never happened.

So. . . this is what we have to go on:

. . .one of my female bettas that was one of the first ones I got 6 months ago, and she had two big red sores on her, and white all over her scales. . . She had been eating a little less lately, but I hadn't thought much of it, as she looked and acted fine otherwise.

. . .she was listless last night, and had a dull look in her eyes, the same way a very ill person does. She had two red sores on her body, and her underside was very red too. She had white (not fluffy) stuff all over her gills. She was FINE the day before, since I spend time my fish daily.
I'm hoping and praying that this morning hasn't brought you any more ill fish. Since round 2 started with the betta, have there been any other fish lost, or showing signs of illness since your poor little Betta girl? (PLEASE say no!)

Since you don't have a picture of the poor girl. . . do you think you might be able to find something on Google Images that looks how she did? I know. . . this is not a fun task. . . but maybe it could help?

So. . . any signs of fin damage in your affected fish? Was she breathing rapidly? You said that the white NOT FLUFFY growth on her gills - could this have been an increase in her slime coat in that area? You keep saying red - red belly, red sores - but are you also seeing a general paling of the scales? Did you happen to have seen the color of her gills on the inside (they should be a deep reddish-pink). In general, are any of your other fish showing any of these symptoms at all, or anything to cause you concern? They're all eating normally, breathing normally, not flashing etc?

I'm sorry if I'm badgering you, hon. . . I know this is so hard! I'm just trying to get any possibly related information that might be able to help you figure this thing out - and stop it in it's tracks. . .

RackinRocky 08-17-2012 03:24 PM

Ches, you are NOT badgering me! Any advice can get, I will glady take. No, no more fish are showing any signs at all. Eating well, active.

As for the poor dead girl, she had no fin damage that I could see. Did not seem to be breathing rapidly either. Had been spending more time near the top, or in a cave for the last few days. Could have been increased slime coat, yes. No, didn't notice paling of the scales, but she was a light yellow, so not that easy to tell. Nothing looked different with the color of her gills on the inside.

When I lost all those fish a month ago, none of them had any sores that I could see. This was the only one who manifested that. If we don't know what this is, I hate to just treat with Maracyn, as I could be way off track, buy all the meds, then still end up losing all the fish. I'm sitting here on pins and needles, not knowing if someone else will get sick at any minute, or even a month from now. After all those deaths before, I was so relieved when my fish stopped dying. But now. . . I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Again.

Chesh 08-17-2012 05:43 PM

I am SO relieved to hear that everyone made it through the night and seem to be well! HOORAY!!!

It's ALWAYS nerve-wracking to lose a fish, most ESPECIALLY (I'm sure) after all that you've been through over the last two months, but you are ABSOLUTELY correct - if you can't pin down what the problem is, medicating for the wrong thing will often cause more harm than good, it's stressful on the fish and the entire system. Since this fish has different symptoms than the others, it's probably safe to assume this is NOT a resurgence of the same illness, which as far as I can tell DOES tend to present with some of the above-listed symptoms. There are so many uggies that are present in ANY fish-tank, and as long as the fish are healthy - they may never pose a problem. Hopefully it stops here - it very well might. You have no way of knowing how old your little Betta was when you got her, or what she could possibly have picked up from the time she was born until she came to live with you. It could be that she was weakened by something entirely different, or from fighting off the Columnaris last month, or maybe it was just her time to go - as sad as that is. . . just because one fish dies, it in NO WAY means that your entire tank will suffer - and hopefully, this will be the case. You still did the right thing - it doesn't sound like she would have made it through the night, and with some illnesses - certain parasites, for example - the death of a fish in the water can infect the rest of the tank as the parasites are forced then to find a new host. . . I don't know if this was the case with your little Betta, just trying to assure you that you DID the right thing, even though it was hard for you.

I am familiar with the feeling of paranoia that comes after a fish dies unexpectedly. . . but you're doing the right thing. Wait. Watch. . . and pray that this is the end of it.

Aside from being kept in holding in case they are carrying anything into the main tank, your new fish in QT are settling in and getting adjusted to the change of location and water parameters. Hopefully, by the time their QT is over, they'll have recovered and feel comfortable enough with their new home that the move from tank A to tank B won't cause them too much stress, and their bodies will be able to fight of anything that could cause them harm in the main tank. Just like us, fish with healthy immune systems can battle so many illnesses - I'm sure they'll be fine :)

Please keep us posted on how things go. . . I'm REALLY hoping that this was just an isolated occurrence, and that everything will continue to be smooth-sailing for you! *HUGS* You're doing all you can for right now - and sometimes the right thing is actually. . . nothing! :-)

Good luck, lady! You REALLY need a break from the fishy drama right now!!!

RackinRocky 08-18-2012 12:36 AM

I sure hope you're right, and that this is something entirely different that my girl had. One thing I know is, she was a little baby when I got her, so I know it wasn't an age issue.

With the Columnaris, the fish that I lost were not stressed in any way. So I can't see how that was a factor. They were fish I'd had for months (since babies) and they were strong and active, fat and eating well. It killed bettas, cories and platies. I read Columnaris hits bettas hard. Is that ever true! They died so quickly compared to the platies, who held on a bit longer. I'm just praying with all my might that no one else gets sick. I'll keep you posted. I've even read today that a fish can be a carrier, and have no symptoms itself. So that discourages me, as I could buy a new fish, quarantine it, and then put it in with the others, and it could cause the others to get sick! Can't win for losin! Thanks so much, and I'll let you know. . .

Chesh 08-18-2012 06:28 AM

I hope I'm right, too - because I really don't know enough to know, either. . .


Originally Posted by RackinRocky (Post 1204016)
I've even read today that a fish can be a carrier, and have no symptoms itself. So that discourages me, as I could buy a new fish, quarantine it, and then put it in with the others, and it could cause the others to get sick!

This is true - with many fish illnesses, from what I've read. But you shouldn't be discouraged! There are so many potential illnesses living in our tanks that, for the most part, we never even see! Fish are tough little critters. . . as long as they are stress-free and in clean water, they stand a good chance of never picking it up - so try not to worry too much! You do a great job caring for them and keeping them happy, so hopefully you won't have any further issues! *CROSSES FINGERS*

I'm so sad about your little betta. That she was so young makes it even harder! But it is true that the very young as well as the very old - in people AND in fish - will tend to be the weaker ones, and thus more susceptible to infections. . . but you're doing a fantastic job! You have happy fish in clean water, and that's really the BEST thing that you CAN do to ensure their health *hugs* I hope you never have to deal with ANYTHING like this for the rest of your fish-keeping career! (which *I'm* hoping will be a nice loooooooong one!)

RackinRocky 08-18-2012 06:12 PM

Thanks so much again, Ches. And how are your Bolivians? Is the one that was sick, fully recovered now?

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 11:10 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
vBulletin Security provided by vBSecurity v2.2.2 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2017 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
User Alert System provided by Advanced User Tagging (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2017 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome