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Mike 10-09-2007 11:59 AM

How can I save my butterfly fish from ich?
We've lost three fish in the past few weeks to ich; two butterfly fish and one lemon peel angel. It was extremely upsetting, but they were all relatively new additions and we were not as attached to them as we are to the fish we've had for months and months - the fish who now seem in jeopardy of dieing.

Snowflake, our lemon butterfly, is not doing well at all. His eyes are extremely cloudy. His fins are torn up. His behavior has completely changed.

We love this fish and want to do anything we can to save him.

We have added Cupramine and have been trying to test it with API Copper Test but looking down into the test tube to match up the color seems worthless... it is the same color whenever we test, even if we've done a water change. It appears to be .50 but it is difficult to match up.

Anyhow, the protien skimmer has been off.

The specific gravity is 1.016. We lowered it a few days ago from 1.02X based on advice.

The temperature is 73 degrees Farenheit. We had raised it to 80 for a few days as we were advised to, but we were told it should not stay that high for more than a few days.

Is there anything we can do to save him?

Mike :(

Captain Crab 10-10-2007 12:09 PM

Open your Tank up and let your butterfly fish fly away....Only joking
73 degrees sound like the first problem.That would be like throwing you in the snow with flu.Most marine fish need at least 80 degrees.Although they live a while in 70 degree temps it wont be long before disease sets in.

bettababy 10-10-2007 02:00 PM

Good advice so far, let me add to it.
First off, is this a fish only tank? I am assuming it is if you're treating with copper. The first thing you need to do is to get a different test for the copper, asap. Too much is worse than too little, and it sounds as if you have a faulty kit... or a bad med. The only way to know is to use a different test kit. That's important at this point.
It also sounds like you are dealing with 2ndary infection already, as ick shouldn't cause the rotting of fins and such as you describe. Let me talk to my husband and see if he agrees with what I'm thinking before I post it for meds list. He's more familiar with the specific meds than I am, at least for saltwater fish. Having the eel in the mix may make a difference in what is safe to use.
Are the fish still eating? What are the water params at right now? Tank stats please? Will do all I can to help save them!

caferacermike 10-10-2007 05:06 PM

73F is awesome. That is an ideal temperature for a marine tank. This is an established reef set up and corals, along with fish, benefit from the lowered metabolism needed in cooler temps. 80F becomes borderline coral meltdown. Most corals will perish at extended temps above 81F in our fake marine set ups. What may be good in the wild does not always work in captivity.

bettababy 10-10-2007 06:31 PM

If this is an established reef setup, copper in any amount can and will wipe out inverts... that's not something you want to treat with if there are inverts in the tank, and why I was assuming it was fish only.
If that is the case, it's important to get the copper out asap and work with treating the fish in a quarantine tank. Be aware that stress will also play in... as for temp... if you take the temp up to 80 slowly, over the course of at least a wk, most corals can handle this fluctuation. The trick is not to do it fast.
What kinds of corals are we talking about in the tank? What other inverts?
Also, did you know that most butterfly and even angelfish will eat their way through a reef?

bettababy 10-10-2007 06:59 PM

My husband just informed me of something...
Not all copper treatments are the same and not all test kits cover all types of copper treatment. His suggestion is to check labels on copper meds and to check the kit to find out what it qualifies to test.
Copper comes in chealated and unchealated. Some test kits will test for one or the other, and a few will test for either/both... the only way to know for sure what you have is to read labels and instruction sheets. Most of the meds will suggest a test kit that is compatible for testing that form of copper. If you can't find that information in the instructions you can call the manufacturer of the copper treatment to find out where it falls in category.

The other often misguided mistake made in using copper treatment... some are listed as "invert safe" because the concentration of copper is small enough to not necessarily do damage to inverts, but then it also isn't going to have much effect on parasites... as parasites are inverts.
To safely use copper as a medication to fight parasites, the dosage is high enough to be potentially lethal to any invert. If the dosage is kept low enough to keep inverts safe... it is also considered too low to be effective in treating a parasitic problem effectively.

Mike 10-10-2007 07:17 PM

Hi guys,

Thank you for your replies. I should have specified that this is a fish only tank. There are no corals or inverts. I would not have used copper otherwise.

There is no eel in the tank. We had a lemon peel angel, but he died recently along with two other butterfly fish.

Is there a specific copper test kit anyone can recommend for its ease of use and accuracy? As I mentioned, the one we got is nearly impossible to read. The Cupramine has both chelated and unchelated copper in it...

How would I know whether things have progressed to a "secondary infection"? Is that an advanced stage of ich infection or does it mean that the fish's immune system has been so compromised by the ich that it caught something else?

The tank is 55 gallons. Unfortunately it is not in my apartment so I cannot perform a test right now and report the results. When I tested it a few days ago, the nitrates were through the roof. The other parameters appeared OK, though. I did a water change and brought down the salinity as I described in my previous post.

All of the fish seem to be eating normally except for this butterfly fish.

bettababy 10-10-2007 07:49 PM

Can you get any closer pics of the fish? Do the eyes look like they are slightly raised (as in the outer membrane over the eyeball)? Is there any red veining in the fins or around the base of the fins? Red tinting appearing in the body at all? Are you seeing any type of white fuzzy growth on the fins or body, in paticular on the damaged areas?
Can you test for Calcium?
I'm not going anywhere, so as soon as you can get a calcium reading, I'll be here to help...
Sometimes it's a matter of just knowing what symptoms to look for and only experience can really give you that.
When I mentioned 73 degrees, my husband cringed... said that is just too cold, especially for something like butterfly fish. As with most marine ornamental fish, they tend to be collected in shallow water, and from time of collection to time of purchase, tend to be kept in upper 70's for temp. These fish are used to it, and meeting that need is going to benefit them, especially in time of illness. Most tend to thrive in water temps of 76 - 78. With no inverts in the tank, I would go back to the warmer temp of 80 for the time being. The warmer temps will cause the ick cysts to burst faster, allowing the copper to be more effective for treatment.

Check Salifert and Lamotte for the copper test kits. These are top of the line, and while they may run a bit more, they are more accurate and one of those 2 companies should offer what you need... also you can check Hagen brand test kits to see if they will test both types of copper (if they have a copper test available).

A good tip for testing copper... use a white piece of paper with a bright flashlight and shine through the test vial, and look at the color of the shadow behind it... this may help you to distinguish color change more easily.
If I come up with anything else that may be able to help, I'll post it here.
Best of luck to you and your fish!

Mike 10-14-2007 02:56 PM

Snowflake is dead.
Thank you Dawn and everyone else who offered advice. I just received a phone call telling me that Snowflake is gone now.

I don't regard my fish as ornamental. I keep them with my girlfriend, and we joke that they are our family. Learning of Snowflake's death has really affected me. He was one of my favorite fish. Every time I would come home he would swim up the glass and seem more interested than nearly any of my other fish, even if in reality he was only interested in food. I chose a picture of him to represent my tank in my aquarium log. I loved that fish. And now he's dead.

Before he went, what appeared to be the outermost later of his eyeball fell off, leaving the pupil exposed. His eye did not fall out or appear to be slightly raised... it was cloudy one day and "open" the next; it was as if something just sliced the top most layer off. The exact same thing happened to our other butterfly fish who died before him. I tried googling this phonomenon but could not find anything about it. Does anyone have any idea what may have happened?

My angelfish, Abby, did appear to have swollen eyes, though. Fortunately they have receded since we began treating the tank with copper. I am going to look into the copper tests mentioned, thank you.

I don't think I am going to get another fish for a while, and I think I am going to bite the bullet and invest in a small quarantine tank before I do.

RIP Snowflake 10/14/07


bettababy 10-15-2007 12:59 PM

Without pictures or being able to examine the body, it is impossible to say for sure what has happened, but I would like to try to help figure it out so that you don't have to experience such a loss again.
I spent some time talking to Rob about your situation, and he agreed that the thing with the eyes sounds like a possible fungus problem, with a 2ndary bacterial infection that set in. The fin damage could be a number of things or a combination of any of a number of things. We'd have to go back to the beginning and start reviewing everything that has happened in your tank.

For future reference, most of the butterfly fishes are not easy to keep. They are very sensitive to stress, water quality, nutritional needs, and prone to illness. It tends to take quite a while for them to really settle in, but once they do the success rate goes way up. Be careful not to mix them with anything that might harass them, such as a lemon peel angel...
When I was at the store we used to bring in a lot of butterfly fish. It was my job to make sure they were healthy and eating well before we could send them home. I found that increasing the amount of decorations in the tank helped a lot, giving them extra hiding places, and also that they can be somewhat hard to feed. I started doing my homework, and found that in stores in general, the typical cause of death was starvation and illness from stress. It took me over a year, and our success rate with the butterflys was so great, we added one to our display tank to stay with us. The #1 reason I found that they are difficult feeders is because each species of butterfly has a specific food source in the wild, and many fish are still being wild caught. It's very expensive to feed them live corals, and impractical, so I had to find a way to feed them a substitute they would accept. There are a lot of options, but frozen mysis shrimp, live adult brine shrimp, and then onto formula foods (all soaked in Zoe for added nutrition) were all on the list and seemed to work the best.

What size tank is this? What fish are still in it? Are you running a UV Sterilizer? I'd like to help you get this tank stable, and to encourage you to try again. I understand how hard it can be to lose a prize fish.. and yes, I also understand about them becoming members of the family. I have been doing the fish thing for over 25 yrs now, and each one is like another child for me. Many of my fish over the years have been rescued animals, sick and/or dying, and in need of a forever home. From guppy to oscar, urchin to seahorses, I've had/done it all. At the store I had the hands on education with all of the most common species of animals, and many less common and harder to find animals, too. We had over 350 tanks always full of something, and many display tanks that were permanent residents. When something special came in, we kept it and learned about it, took care of it... I learned a lot!!! After so many years of this, it has become 2nd nature to me now.
Let me know if there's anymore I can do to help!

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