Red lump on lower jaw of tin foil barb - advice needed!
Hello, fish community. I really could use some advice.
I have had this particular Tinfoil Barb for at least a year. I had two other tin foils, but both died, out of the blue, no symptoms.... just each died overnight, a few months apart, the last several months ago. I did get all three fish at the same time from the same shop.
My tank is 210 gallons, but it's really only filled to about 150 gallons. The main occupant is an African mud turtle, and she needs her sunning space. Other occupants besides Ruby and the tinfoil barb are random generations of guppies (all healthy), and a couple varieties of Tetras at any given time (also all healthy). I should point out that I really never have to deal with sicknesses in these small fish, since any under the weather individual is usually done in by Ruby during the first few nights of its illness. (This is probably not going over very well with you fish enthusiasts, and I do apologize if I offend, but I'm just giving the run down of the tank environment.) There are also usually a few mystery snails rambling around in there, but snails are a mainstay of the African mud turtle, so there is a fairly regular turnover of snail populations. Ruby is mega-destructive when it comes to plants, so all i have is a little forest of plastic plants, all of which have dark green algae on them. There is also a fine, healthy Gibbicep in the tank.
Ruby consistently leaves the large tinfoil barb and gibbicep completely alone. Even the two tinfoil barbs that died never showed the least damage caused by Ruby,neither pre nor post mortem.
The current water properties are (about) pH 7, alkalinity 120ppm, hardness 150ppm, nitrite >0.5ppm, nitrate 180ppm (yes, I said 180ppm, and yes, probably a problem, and yes, I blame my giant meat-eating turtle for this value, and yes, this is pretty standard for my tank), and chlorine just about 0ppm.
I have a Fluval FX5 filter, an inline UV filter, and an airline to keep things stirred up. The tank is generally kept at about 78 - 80oF, and is lit with two ReptiSun 7% UVB 96 watt lights, and 1 heat lamp.
Ruby gets fed a variety of things, most recently she's been on a super mealworm binge. My tinfoil barb is quick, quick, and will often steal at least two mealworms every feeding. Otherwise the fish get mostly TetraMin flakes and occasionally frozen cubes of glassworms or bloodworms.
Okay, that's the big environmental picture and life history of my tank.
On to my fish. My lovely little tinfoil barb has a big red lump on its lower jaw. Now, it's been there for a while, this tiny little red speck that you could barely see, and half the time I thought I was imagining it. I mean that. I wasn't sure I was seeing anything really amiss. Bu then, I just went away for a week, and I came back, and...BLAM! ginormous lump. I've only been home a day, but other than the lump and the fact that it's out in the open and not lurking in Ruby's cave (as is more normal), the tinfoil is looking rather okay. It is eating flakes, but I haven't tried a worm yet. It isn't especially fretful or agitated, lethargic or lopsided. It just has that awful lump. The white little bits you see on/around the lump - I think that is the fraying epidermal layer, not something like a fungus.
What do I do? How to I help my last barb?
That looks like a pretty nasty bacterial infection, likely starting from some type of wound/injury and escalating due to water quality issues combined with stress. (a bite from a super worm during mealtime possibly?) Your description of its progression as well as your situation only confirms that for me. It is treatable, but not in the main tank. I am hoping you have a quarantine tank set up or available?
In quarantine (please don't add the meds to your main tank, its not safe for the turtle or likely some/all of the tetras...you don't mention which species of tetras, and meds going into water with those test results can quickly turn toxic). The best, most effective option would be Fungus Eliminator. The combination of ingredients in Fungus Eliminator is such that it should treat the bacterial issue as well as any chance of fungal issue happening. Your tank is going to be prime for fish illness, disease, both fungal and bacterial... not only due to the water quality but also the turtle and turtle waste. You know you have a toxic mess brewing, right?
I am as concerned for your turtle as I am for your fish. You already seem to understand that this is not a suitable set up for the fish, but with water chemistry readings such as you listed, this is also very unhealthy for the turtle. Turtles are also susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections, and high nitrate can cause skin and shell issues as well as eye and even respiratory issues. Your tank in its current condition is a breeding ground for everything that could possibly go wrong for both fish and turtle. I would urge you to clean it up... gradually so as not to cause more harm to the fish. Adding some polyfilter to the canister, changing it every other day for a week or 2 would help clean up the water chemistry quickly and safely. PuraPad is another option that works well, just not as quickly. PuraPad would need to be changed weekly until water chemistry is in good standing and then every 2 - 3 wks regularly to help maintain better water quality. Do not use Polyfilter long term. If you need links to finding either of these 2 filter medias online let me know, I can post those for you.
I noticed you mentioned that your other fish are "healthy". I can assure you that with a nitrate reading of 180, they are not healthy... there is no way thats possible if they have been in these conditions for any length of time. High nitrates can cause a lot of internal damage. Just because we can't see it doesn't mean its not there. Its one thing to confine predator and prey animals to the same limited space if they are not intended for food, but its another thing if they are slowly being poisoned while in that tank while waiting to be eaten or expected to survive long term. A turtle eating sick fish is also very unhealthy, and can cause some major health problems for the turtle if it continues long term.
Well. Thank you for your concern. I've had Ruby (the turtle) for about 12 years, and she has never had an infection or shell rot, or any of your other concerns. She is obnoxiously healthy. She is an African yellow-bellied mud turtle, and her species, in its native habitat, actually thrives in detrital conditions. Please feel free to research her wildly robust genus to get a better idea of her specific care needs. She is Pelusios castanoides castanoides , her natural habitat being the marshes and swamps of the islands of Madagascar.
As for the health of the fish, I do primarily keep live bearers, and since they do consistently reproduce through many generations, I tend to judge them healthy. I admit the tetra populations are a little harder to judge, since once in a while Ruby develops a taste for them, and one morning there will just be 2 or 3 missing. I never know if they were sluggish and easy to catch, or if she just manages to catch perfectly healthy ones. But until such time of these sudden disappearances, they live in the tank for several years before I find the schools have dropped enough that I need to start replacing them. They tend to be quick swimmers and the of right colors so Ruby has a hard time spotting them. (She is most successful at hunting red/orange/yellow fish.)
Because of Ruby's presence, I do very regular mini-water changes every week, and major changes with rotating changes to the filter media every month. As it is late winter, early spring, and the weather is warming and daylight extending, Ruby has spent the last 2 months on a feeding binge. This is always a tough time of year because of her increased waste output. (Do you keep turtles? It is a very different thing to have an almost exclusively carnivorous turtle vs a fish/invert only aquarium.)
Anyway, for years I have always only kept hardy little fish and my one gibbicep (which I have had for about 6 years now). The tinfoil barbs were an experiment after I had removed the plants and opened up the tank so that there was a good 5 feet of cleared swim area almost 2 feet deep. The Fluval fx5 provides a decent current throughout the tank, and I hoped that would be sufficient for fish native to moving water. Well, unfortunately my experiment failed. I will follow what my research and experience has proven successful. Keeping to super hardy fish (like my gibbicep) and inverts that can thrive in the exact same conditions that Ruby thrives in.
Several days ago I moved my beautiful tinfoil into a 10 gallon quarantine tank, and took 2 days to wean it down to 50% tank water, 50% fresh water. And then I started to treat it with Microbe-Lift. But yesterday it died. It never ate once it was in the quarantine tank. I'm afraid the stress of its capture and subsequent quarantine was all it took to tip the scale in favor of its infection.
So as I said, moving forward, I will stick with what 12 years of experience tells me will work with what is typically a lower pH, high nitrate environment. And I think I will try to reestablish a plant community in the tank, as they are effective scrubbers. ...Even though Ruby tears them to shreds and so they can end up contributing to crazy nitrate and pH levels rather than helping.
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