Possible Flexibacter infection, need advice
Hi all, this is my first post on the aquarium forums. My girlfriend and I currently have three freshwater tropical fish tanks--two 10 gallon tanks and a 55 gallon community tank. The problem we are facing is only in the 55 gallon tank though. We have quite a few fish in there (listed below) which, until yesterday, included one male betta fish. Last night we noticed that he was swimming very slowly, only hanging out at the bottom, and his lips and gills looked swollen and white. He also looked very pale compared to his very deep red color. Concerned about his deteriorating condition, we added a bit of aquarium salt and tea tree extract (supposedly good for treating the flexibacter bacteria). I also added an airstone to the water, after reading that the bacteria hates aeration and oxygen.
We both worked this morning so we had no time to check the tank after waking up other than taking a quick glance at it with the lights off. Didn't see the male betta but we hoped he was just hiding. Came home today after work and noticed that my large pleco was munching on the body of the male betta who had obviously been picked apart by all the other fish beforehand. Of course, the pleco is the one fish out of all of them that we have in the tank that my girlfriend has become extremely attached to and it would break her heart for it to die after growing so large... the other fish are relatively tiny in comparison to him.
I have read from numerous sources on the internet that Flexibacter bacteria is extremely contagious for fish, and that once one fish has caught the disease, often all the other fish are infected as well and possibly die before a diagnosis can even be made. After seeing the pleco practically swallowing the carcass of the betta whole, I assumed that there is almost 100% chance of him being infected. However, I wanted a second opinion.
Here's the Q&A from the sticked thread at the top:
1. 55 gallon (48" x 13")
2. The reading I took with Tetra test strips today before doing 10% water change:
nitrite: 10 ppm
hardness: 180 ppm
alkalinity: 270 ppm
4. Tank has been set up almost 4 months
5. Fish in the tank are as follows:
(4) zebra danios
(3) feeder guppies
(1) ghost shrimp
(3) black mollies
(4) bala sharks
(6) neon tetras
(4) albino cory catfish
(2) rainbow sharks (aka red-tailed sharks)
(2) dwarf guaramis
(3) female bettas
All of the fish are relatively small (1 inch or less) except for one of the bala sharks, the gouramis and the pleco.
6. No quaratine
7. 78 degrees F
8. Yes, lots of live plants. Mostly anarachnis, but also anubias, hornwort, crypts and banana plants.
9. Topfin filter or some sort. It's not an under-gravel filter, but that's about as much as I know. We bought the tank and all the parts used.
10. Marineland 200W heater, DIY CO2 injection system, airstone with electric air pump that has been taken out and put back in numerous times (still debating on whether we want it in there or not)
11. Tank only recieves a small bit of indirect sunlight every day. Our lights are kept on a 2a.m. off till 2p.m. on 12 hour schedule.
12. Weekly 10% water changes, every other week a gravel vacuuming. The last water change was Wednesday of last week (March 17)
13. Fish eat all different types of flakes (mostly labeled as tropical or goldfish flakes), betta pellets, chiclids pellets, dried bloodworms, and frozen brine shrimp. Occasionally I will buy live crickets and give them to the sharks and betta fish. We usually feed them only once per day, not necessarily at the same time every day, and occasionally we skip a day of feeding.
14. The only unusually thing that has happened is the male betta unexpectedly dying. One of our mollies actually looked like it had a white patch of cotton attached to the side of its body a long time ago, but we have since moved that fish to another tank, and the white patch is now gone.
15. The only action that has been taken so far has been the addition of aquarium salt, an airstone and 2 tsp. of tea tree extract (labeled as "ALL NATURAL MELAFIX" antibacterial remedy). I am about to do a 20% water change after I finish this post.
Thank you for reading my post if you've managed to make it this far! Any advice/tips/suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
I see some really big problems going on with your tank, as I am sure you read that he flexobateria is a bacteria that lives in our tanks all the time just waiting for the right conditions to infect our fish.
A sudden change in temp, over crowding, stress, poor water quality being the top reason, by your post you have 3 of the 4 going on right now......don't know about temp changes on your tank....
One thing I see with your water prams is a really high nitrate 100ppm in just 4 months, this can be a sign of poor water quality, over stocking and lack of proper vacuuming, over feeding... high nitrate can affect the fish immunity making it easier for pathogens/parasite to infect the fish.
You need to start by lowering the nitrate level really slow over about 2 weeks with small percent water changes increasing the percent every other day until you reach 50% water changes, vacuuming a fourth of the tank with every other water change, checking your nitrate levels so not to drop by 10ppm per change, otherwise you can shock the fish making the sick or killing them
Nitrite at 10ppm is another problem, this will affect the oxygen transportation in the blood, this need to be 0ppm
What about ammonia reading?
I recommend that you get a good master test kit, API make a pretty good one that will test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH.
Ph at 6.4 - most likely is what is saving the fish at this point...
Re eval your stocking, in a 55g you are over stocked and poorly stocked, you have some fish that get too big for a 55g and brackish and freshwater fish mixed, I am amazed you have been successful without issues to this point......
At this point, I would also lower the temp in the 72-75F range to help keep the bacteria from growing too fast as you get the nitrate and nitrite level at safe numbers.
Other problems related to filtration, plants and CO2 but right now you need to get other things fixed first
Do some research on your fish and decide on what you like and what species are best kept together and rehome the rest, otherwise you will have nothing but headaches.......
Hmm... I don't see how we are "poorly" stocked based on the size of the fish. I know the bettas aren't meant to be together with the other tropical fish but as far as the size goes they are all very small at this point.
That said, thank you for the advice. I will try to keep up on the frequent water changes to lower the nitrates. I will be investing in another test kit soon as well. Hopefully one with ammonia readings.
When stocking you have to look at the adult size not the current size of the fish as the plan of the responsible fish keeper is to keep these fish for the duration of their natural life.
You also have to consider, social issue, swimming space/needs, and territories when stocking not just size of the fish, you need to look at water needs at far as brackish-vs-freshwater as well...more to it than 1in/gal and that is a joke in my opinion anyway...can you really keep a 10in fish in a 10g tank?
Its all in what you want out of your tank and if you want health issues and if you have the money to replace fish each time they die because they are kept in the wrong environment...responsible fish keeping IMO
Freshwater fish need fresh water to thrive not just survive........to be a keeper of fish you must first be a keeper of water...this is an awesome hobby that is fun and easy when you follow a few simple rules......
It's our first tank together. We're still learning. :shock:
Agree with much of what's been posted thus far. I would were it me,, (and it ain't) review,research,the water parameter's for each of the fishes before purchasing them. Some of your fish require very different water chemistry to do well in the long term. I would research their preferred pH,temp, compatibility with other fishes you may have,and diet needs.
Is good idea to quarantine all new fish. (Maybe use onere of your ten gal. tanks?)
Welcome to this awesome hobby...it really is fun once you get things figured out and we all started off making mistake.....or at least I did....lol.... and back then we didn't have computers let alone the internet to get help...lol.......
What is important IMHO is that you are asking for help and there are a lot of folks on this site with tons of knowledge and willing to help.....we don't want you to get discouraged as this can get pretty confusing in the beginning.....but it gets easier and it is loads of fun......
What do you think about the pleco though? He still looks fine and is swimming, eating and sucking on stuff just like normal. I was wondering if you had thoughts on the bacteria infecting the pleco since he was eating a contaminated corpse.
Edit: We also lost another swordfish today, and one of the other female betta's lips have turned ghost white. We removed her from the big tank into a 2 gallon without a heater.
If the fish looks sick get them out and QT...ASAP...so not to infect the other fish....
The pleco, if it is a common type they get over 18 in and if in the right environment they should reach that size in less than 2 years, once they reach maturity 8-12in, they usually change diet, stop eating algae and go looking for higher protein...they love to suck slim off of slow moving or sleeping fish after lights out......
I would remove any dead bodies ASAP.....so the ammonia will not rise too much...make a water pram test and check levels...
Once you get nitrate down to safe level 30ppm or less, ideal 5-20ppm....anytime you see a change in behavior or you find a dead fish make a 50% water change...IMO/E you can't do too many water changes...freshwater fish thrive in fresh water...when in doubt make a water change...just make sure water temp is within a few degrees from old and new water and you use a dechlorinator if you are on city water supply........
Don't be surprised if you have some fish die during the time that you are lowering the nitrate level, this is stressful on them and their immunity is shot so they have little natural defense.....
I think my test strips were bad. I didn't realize it but they expired a few months ago after inspecting the package.
I took some water to the store yesterday and according to their tests, we have 0 ammonia and 0 nitrites... still a little high on nitrate @ 50 ppm. I'm a little worried about the pH though. According to their tests, it was at 6.2. I'm not sure if that's a bad thing but none of the fish in the tank seemed bothered by it. I forgot what the hardness reading was but it was nothing out of the ordinary.
So as I said before, we put the betta in the 2-gallon tank we had lying around last night because she was displaying symptoms of the disease. After putting her in, she seemed to be acting normal still, swimming around like she normally does. We put some melafix and some salt in the tank to hopefully stop progression of the disease. My girlfriend says it looked like the condition WASN'T getting any worse so I was optimistic. However, I peered into the tank when I woke up today and the betta is just sitting motionless at the bottom of the tank inside of a small cave rock. I can only see the very tip of her tail. I can't tell if she is still alive and I don't want to agitate the tank if she is and put her under more stress. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
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