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JazDaemon 12-21-2008 01:32 PM

help with copper treatment
Hi all

Many newbie mistakes made here but still I'd like some help.

2 weeks ago after adding 2 new false perculas to my tank(without quarantine...i know dumb) my mono sebae developed ich. A little research later found that copper was no good for inverts but was highly effective. I have several hermits, a mithrax crab and peppermint shrimps. So I went to LFS and bought without reading fine print(dumb again) quick cure, malachite green and formalyde. treated as recomended then read the fine print. Put back carbon and did a large water change....

After more research I read alot of ppl had sucess with Kick-ich wich is reef and invert freindly. LFS had none in stock but ordered for me, had to wait a whole week.

The mono got worse. Cloudy eyes and whitish film all over his body and fin rot. Set up and emergency 10gal and bought copper sulfate. Been treating for 4 days now and he is getting better.

Received the Kick-Ich yesterday and started treatment in main tank. This morning found a dead 3 striped damsel. I'm affraid that with all the white this fish has I didn't see how bad he had it.

I have 2 questions:

1. The 10gal hospital tank I set up isn't cycled, will water changes prolong copper treatment? Should I seed it with substrate from main?

2. Has anyone had good results with kick ich? and should I go with dosage for heavy infections?
(the clowns are erratic and my blue damsel is continously flashing)

The reason not all fish are in the hospital tank is that the Mono is very big and creates lots of waste and that tank is not cycled and also he was the one that was most severly infected or so I thought.

Ich, what a nightmare! Any newbs reading this... quarantine everything before adding to display.

Thanks for any help

Pasfur 12-22-2008 02:47 PM

The big take away from this situation is that PATIENCE is required for any successful marine setup. You have been so much in a hurry, that you have given yourself absolutely no chance of success.

To answer questions, water changes will not prolong the copper treatment, so long as the replacement water is dosed with the appropriate level of copper. Treating with copper requires the use of a copper test kit. Hopefully you have one. Maintain the recommended level by testing daily and dosing as necessary, per instructions.

As a rule, there has been very little if any success in treating ich in reef aquariums. My best suggestion would be to elevate the temperature to 86F and add a garlic supplement to the diet daily during the treatment period. I would strongly consider adding a UV Sterilizer to help prevent future outbreaks and spread of disease. I would not suggest using any medications. I have not heard of any successful treatments of reef environments using Kick Ich.

Yes, you should seed the q-tank with a small handful of sand from the display. After treatment you MUST throw this sand away. DO NOT use it again.

You do not mention anything about your filtration system or aquarium size. I suspect there is a lot more help we can provide to you if you will give us some specs and long term goals. Lets get things on track so that you can have long term marine success!

JazDaemon 12-22-2008 06:49 PM

Thanks for your reply Pasfur.

heres the specs:

37 hex tank
penguin 200 filter without the bio wheel
submersible filter rated for 20gal that I use as a powerhead
an intank skimmer rated for 50gal
submersible heater
30 lbs of live rock
2 inch bed of oolite

The tank was converted from fresh to full marine over a 4 month period...been full marine since may-june. The mono did very well through the stress no disease and has grown quite a bit since last febuary when i got him.

ph: 8.3
dkh: 11
no3: 10
sg: 1.24
temp: 80F

So today I woke up to a dead clown. Checked the copper in the qt and it was still good. I checked ammonia yesterday and there was none, today 40ppm! did 2 water changes of 5galsand added 2 handfuls of sand...the fish was stressed out. With ich and fin rot he can't go through a cycle and is the stress on the fish worth it...

I'll get some garlic supps if I can find some. I have a flake food that has some in it but even that the fish won't eat. My second clown hovers near the bottom and hasn't eaten in 2 days. The blue damsel eats but is still continously flashing. The mono in the qt ate a cpl bits of brine shrimp yesterday, nothing today.

I'm affraid it's going to be a wipeout unfortunately >:(

Long term plan was to turn this into a reef. The mono, if he survives, will go in a 150Gal that I will set up end of January(after it's cycled). He'll be too big for this setup eventually.

ajmckay 12-22-2008 11:51 PM


If you would like you might want to read my ich experience here: "Dreaded crypto on new CB angel" .
Also within that post there is a link to Pasfur's experience as well.

First off, let me tell you that you are not alone making some mistakes adding fish. I added 2 false percs as my first fish and everything was fine until I added a non-quarantined coral beauty angelfish. Now fortunately the clowns were established and thriving in the tank, so while the CB angel contracted ich within days, the clowns never got it. I did, however, set up a quick quarantine tank, and to do it I used a filter that had been helping out the main tank for a few weeks (an aquaclear 20), and I used water from the main tank for the qt tank. When I do water changes now I usually take 5 gallons out of my display, then take 5 out of the qt tank to the drain, add the 5 from the tank to the qt, and then do a 3 gallon water change on the qt tank with new water. Then I test copper and re-dose to maintain the level of medication.

I think the main thing I've learned from the whole experience is that patience is the key. As aquarists, we have the responsibility to do what's best for the fish, even if that happens to be nothing at all. I freaked out at first because I didn't know what to do! I was about to go out and buy medications thinking I could "nuke" the ich with anything/everything. I did end up treating the main tank with metronidazole out of panic because that's all I had, which I don't know if it did anything, but it at least didn't hurt anything (I've read that it's effective in killing crypto in it's free-swimming stage).

I set up the QT tank and since then the only things I have done is maintain a copper level of .5mg/l for a period of 3 weeks. Then I've let it decrease through water changes. Also, to clarify I used Seachem's Cupramine, which is an ionized form of copper that is safer for fish, depending on your medication you may need a different level. The other thing that I did was a fresh water dip, and that was only after taking a video of the fish and describing in detail the symptoms to a knowledgeable worker at my LFS (in fact I asked who had the most experience with fish diseases) to treat flatworms. He also gave me some fresh water from a highly alkaline cichlid tank which matched PH almost perfectly with no buffers or anything.

In conclusion, by keeping my treatments simple, I was able to save my fish. It's been over a month and he is doing great (although still in QT for a little while longer). He's eating lots now (though I never saw him eat anything for almost 3 weeks).
If this were to happen to me again (after quarantining my fish of course!), I would probably be very hesitant to use any medication at all. I would spend an increased amount of time and effort in documenting symptoms, and how they change before I consider any treatment other than feeding supplements like garlic and trying to minimize all possible stresses to let the fish try and do things the natural way before I intervene.

Pasfur 12-23-2008 07:10 AM

Great advice above.

From reading your post, I take it that you never actually had a dry tank, correct? You converted from freshwater to saltwater without draining the tank and cleaning everything. Is this right? If it is...

I would personally start over right now, only a short few months into your saltwater experience. I would completely dismantle the setup, only keeping the live rock wet in a separate container. (a storage tote wold work nicely) Clean everything, REPLACE THE SAND with an aragonite sand substrate a MINIMUM of 3'' in depth, preferably 4''. Allow eBay to be your friend and purchase a proper skimmer. There are many hang on units in the $100 range that you can buy used on your size tank. You may also check out Aquarium Supplies, Pet Supplies and Pond Supplies by That Fish Place - That Pet Place for new skimmer selections.

I feel this course of action is necessary for long term success. You will save a TON Of money by starting over, despite the up front costs. A marine system needs to be a marine system from the first day it is running. Attempting to convert from FW to marine gradually generally leads to bad experiences, as you finding out. I am very disappointed that someone at your LFS did not step up and prevent this process from occurring.

In addition to the above are the issues of water chemistry. You should be testing, at minimum, for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, alkalinity, and calcium. Many would include phosphate and magnesium in this list, but i personally do not. Without testing the full range listed, you can not achieve the proper understanding of what is happening in your system or take the appropriate actions to correct it. In addition, you will need a buffer and/or calcium supplement, EVEN IN FISH ONLY AQUARIUMS. The major saltwater ions have to be kept at the proper levels, as this plays a huge part in the stability of your system and health of your fish. Which is another reason for starting over, rather than converting from FW to marine.

JazDaemon 12-23-2008 08:53 AM

ammonia and nitrites are zero, did not mention them since they have been at zero for months on end. Phosphate is 0 aswell and calcium is 400. I also use a marine buffer. I don't want to come across as being clueless in all this... Alot of people keep their mono sebaes in freshwater when in fact this fish normally migrates to the ocean when maturing. I decided to emulate this in my tank. Very little information can be found on doing this. My sister, who was president of an aquarist club for many many years suggested The following which I did:

-start adding some crushed coral to the substrate while removing the same amount of gravel- small handful every other day until fully switched
-Once ph is up to 8.2 start mixing in some salt water to increase sg by no more than 1.002 per week
-when 1.024 is reached start switching from CC to sand with a minimum of 2 inches then add live rock
all this while monitoring ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and ph vigorously with normal 10 to 15% weekly water changes
(I added the skimmer when I was done switching to sand)

Everything was fine up until I introduced the 2 false percs. So my conclusion is that I brought in the ich this way. In conclusion I will take the advice in any case since a deeper layer of sand will deal with the nitrates as I have learned recently but I still have to get the fish healthy. As to argonite vs oolite any reason for this?

Pasfur 12-24-2008 11:15 AM

You definitely have more experience that your original post made it sound. Lets up the level of conversation.-)

Oolite is a general term, usually used to refer to mixture of crushed corals, oyster shell, or dolomite. It is generally used for buffering purposes in freshwater cichlid aquariums. Crushed coral only serves as a buffer to 7.6 pH level. The remainder of the increase you have experienced in pH is a result of the salts in your marine salt mix. As rule manufactures will label a bag as aragonite if it is of the proper grain size and buffering capacity for a marine system. I suggested the switch to aragonite based on the desire to go full reef, which is also why i suggest the complete start-over.

There is nothing wrong with your conversion technique in the short term. Slowly increasing specific gravity over a period of time will allow for the freshwater bacteria to be slowly replaced by its marine equivalents and allow you to keep brachish fish in a full marine environment. However, in my personal experience, the moment you add any marine fish problems begin to occur. I am not a chemist to study the chemical composition of the major and minor saltwater ions during the conversion process, and I have never seen this topic addressed in any publication or magazine. In fact, i can't recall ever having this discussion on the internet in my 15 years of having these conversations online. But I have attempted the same process in person and I can tell you that the fish did not respond the same. Given the delicate nature of invertebrates and corals, I suspect they would respond worse to being kept in a "converted" system, rather than one which was sterile and then set up marine to being with.

There in an interesting read by Eric Borneman that probably would not take to long to find online. He discusses all of the major and minor ions and how they impact the marine system. If my memory is correct, he tests over 180 different ions for this study. In the hobby we typically only test ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, alkalinity, calcium, strontium, iodide, magnesium, and phosphate. There are literally over 150 other important interactions taking place within our water than we simply can not test accurately. When experienced marine aquarists speak of allowing a system to "mature" or say that fish live well in "aged" water, it is my opinion that these 150+ other ions are the unspoken secret that we are referring to. This is why I suspect marine fish do not adapt well to converted water. Basically, something just doesn't "feel" right.

So, for a reef system, I do not think you want to proceed without a break down first. In fact, for a fish only system I would not suggest a FW to SW salinity conversion. For brachish, I have never had an issue using your technique. I suspect you began with the plan of converting freshwater to brachish, and somewhere along the way decided to purchase some marine fish.

JazDaemon 12-25-2008 12:03 PM

To be honest initially I just wanted some monos because they just look awesome. LFS told me they get pretty big and to add some salt later on. He also said most just keep without salt. Needless to say I researched the species when I got home and found out the need to convert to marine when it matures.

All that being said I read alot more about it and found a link you posted on another thread for the DSB. I took my setup down yesterday. I mixed 20lbs of live argonite sand with 30lbs of dry argonite(3 1/2 inches). After the sand storm I'll place the live rock back. An ugly foam built up at the surface while refilling the tank, should I wait to turn on the skimmer after the storm? Should I try to scoop the foam out?

Again thanks for your help its nice to talk to an experienced enthusiast instead of different advice from 4-5 different LFS's.

Pasfur 12-28-2008 06:07 AM

Happy to help.

I personally suggest turning the skimmer back on as soon as possible. On a side note, as you reposition the live rock, think about water flow. You want to minimize contact with the sand bed, so that the maximum amount of water circulation occurs around, above, and under your live rock. In other words, you do not want a large flat piece of rock laying flat on the sand bed. Instead, use smaller pieces of rock to form "legs" for the base of your structure. Some people use pieces of PVC pipe to elevate the rock an inch or so above the sand. The PVC gradually becomes encrusted with coraline algae and is virtually unnoticable after a few months.

This is an important step in any aquarium. Placing the live rock correctly will dramatically help to eliminate future algae outbreaks, especially cyno.

JazDaemon 12-30-2008 08:22 AM

Thanks again. I put back my inverts that were stuck in a 5 gal bucket. 2 remaining fish will continue to be treated with copper sulfate in hospital tank. With this complete change of substrate and letting it go without fish for a month or so and from what I've read the tank should be clear of ick when the fish are redy to be put back. I will monitor levels closely...ammonia and nitrites are still at 0, lets hope it stays that way.

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