Columnaris? - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 9 Old 04-06-2014, 06:48 AM Thread Starter
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Unhappy Columnaris?

Hi All,

I'm new to this forum but need a little help with diagnosing a disease in my tank that has wiped out approx half of my fish

I previously had a 120 litre tank and moved my fish to a new one 10 weeks ago. At this time I had one (very old) Neon Tetra, 30 Sailfin Mollies and a Horse Faced loach (no plants). Many of the Mollies were grown naturally from breeding in the tank and had been very healthy. I've always completed weekly 25% water changes and parameters have remained stable.

I transferred them to a new 190litre Juwel Trigon corner tank with 2 filters- the new built in Juwel Bio 3 and the Enheim Aquaball from the original tank. To support cycling I used my 'old' filter (the aquaball), used the same white sand substrate, a third of the old water. I continued with the weekly 25% water change and also added some good bacteria 'filter start' for good measure. After 6 weeks all fish were OK, no deaths or signs of disease. Levels were good (0 Ammonia, 0 Nitrite and 40Nitrate) and I assumed the tank was cycled. 40 Nitrate is the base level I have from the tap...I was very happy that despite the move I hadn't lost any fish, the tank looked great!

So after this 6 weeks and considering I had a stable tank I went to my local aquarium shop, bought 3 blood shrimps and 3 young red Platys. Approx 1 week later 1 of my Mollies started to look a little lethargic and one had a red vein on it's lip, the next day I had lost 7 of them!! Totally gutted..

Since this time I've lost the old Neon Tetra, 1 Red Platy and a further 8 Mollies. They've had a variety of symptoms from what looks like fin and body rot to red streaks/ hemorrhaging and sudden death? I been hunting around on the web for diseases that it could be in order to try and treat it. But am still confused and frustrated!

Initially I thought it was fin/ body rot or maybe bacterial so tried "MYXAZIN" by Waterlife which lowers the count of harmful bacteria in aquarium water, treating Fin Rot, Body Rot, Ulcers, Sores and other bacterial infections- will also help to control Pop - Eye Disease, Cloudy Eyes and Mouth Fungus. Ingredients are Malachite Green (0.17% w/v, Formaldehyde (0.24% w/v) and Acriflavin (0.11% w/v).

I used this for 5 days but with no luck. The Mollies continued to die with the same symptoms. Parameters remained the same. After day 7 I completed a 75% water change, added salt ( thinking it could be Columnaris) and dropped the temperature to 75F. I also removed the shrimps from the tank and started a course of Protozin by Waterlife which contains similar levels of Acriflavine and Formaldehyde but also Copper. Unfortunately the fish are still dying.

I beginning to think it may be viral hemorrhagic septicemia as some fish have shown these symptoms and died in a similar way?? Obviously there is no cure for that??

So after all of that info, my main question is what do you think it could be? Columnaris,viral hemorrhagic septicemia?? and could a new fish have brought it in to the tank?? I've added a picture of one of the fish today that is ill and is getting worse..and is there any more treatment I could try? I live in the UK so getting 'antibiotics' is almost impossible..

Since the first outbreak and high number of deaths where I lost my tetra and 1 platy I have only lost Mollies since then??

Very sad..although I do have 6 small fry (Platy and Mollies) that have survived. Parameters are still Ok
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post #2 of 9 Old 04-07-2014, 12:24 AM
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ALWAYS, always quarantine new fish! Its too late for that now... but for the future... be sure you always have a hospital/quarantine tank ready for newcomers. If not a 10 gallon tank, then at least a Tupperware container. Quarantine for at least 3 weeks.

I've had over half a 55 gallon full stocked tank of fish die from Columnaris, twice, and yes, the pictures indicate to me you could be dealing with it. I've researched for hours upon hours on this horrible disease, and I've tried Maracyn, Maracyn 2 (used together) and even Kanaplex and Furan 2 (also used together) for two weeks or more, and I still lost most of them. I think I only saved one or two out of about 30-40 fish that died from it. It's insidious, and, with me at least, it can disappear sometimes for 3-4 months, and then reappear. The only way to truly get rid of it is to break down the tank and bleach everything in it, including the substrate, then rinse thoroughly and leave in the sun for a few days. You even need to bleach the filter. Its a major thing, and it'll, of course, ruin your cycle, and you'll have to start from scratch, but its the only way to get rid of it, as its a very nasty disease. When months went by after the first bout, I figured I was safe-NOT. It hit again and killed just as many fish the second time.

Others will chime in, and I'm hoping its something other than Columnaris, but your fish look very similar to most of the ones of mine that died. Some died very quickly--within 12 hours. Others hung on for days or even weeks, but as soon as a fish would stop eating, I knew what was coming. Good luck--you'll need it.
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10 gallon- 8 Harlequin Rasboras, 1 female betta.

20 gallonH - 1 Peacock Gudgeon, 2 Skunk Cories, 1 Sparkling Gourami. , one male betta, 2 nerite snails.

55 gallon - 3 Turquoise Rainbows, 1 Boesemani Rainbow, 2 Australian Rainbow, 4 Gold Dust mollies, 1 L. Dorsigera, 2 White Cloud Mountain Minnows, 1 Honey Gourami, 3 Cherry barb, 1 Koi Angelfish, 4 female betta.
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post #3 of 9 Old 04-07-2014, 10:51 AM
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There are a variety of meds out there for bacterial infections and everybody has a favorite or 2. I am partial to Tetracycline.

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post #4 of 9 Old 04-07-2014, 12:20 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for your replies, especially yours RRocky. I organised a quarantine tank over the weekend for future new additions, which will obviously be WAY down the line after I get rid of this. The fish in the pic didn't make it sadly..I humanely euthenaised it..

I took a trip back to shop I got the new fish from and found that the Platys in the same tank had several fish with white patches. When I got the fish they all looked OK but they were obviouly already infected. I did mention it to the owner as they are still for sale but basically he didn't give a damn..

I have definately learned the hard way and didn't even know about Columnaris until this..I will always quarantine now!

Thanks for the advice about cleaning..silly question but how do you know after you've cleaned everything that the fish are also 'clean' when you put them back in? Surely they could contaminate it again?
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post #5 of 9 Old 04-07-2014, 06:27 PM
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40 nitrate is pretty high from the tap. are you drinking it? i would get in touch with the water dept if this is a municipal supply.
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bettas-goldfish-shrimp-snails-planted tanks
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post #6 of 9 Old 04-07-2014, 09:02 PM
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Excellent point, Sarah, and this is exactly why I haven't broken down my 55 and started over. I have fish in there that, if put back in a "clean" tank could very well contaminate it all over again. I am waiting for all the fish in there to die, which sounds terrible, but its the only way I'll ever get rid of it. I have a 10 and a 20 gallon tank, but they are stocked, and I still have about 20 fish in the 55. With it sometimes taking a year for a fish to catch it, it'll be a LONG time before I can break that tank down. That is the heartbreak of Columnaris.... I HATE it!
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10 gallon- 8 Harlequin Rasboras, 1 female betta.

20 gallonH - 1 Peacock Gudgeon, 2 Skunk Cories, 1 Sparkling Gourami. , one male betta, 2 nerite snails.

55 gallon - 3 Turquoise Rainbows, 1 Boesemani Rainbow, 2 Australian Rainbow, 4 Gold Dust mollies, 1 L. Dorsigera, 2 White Cloud Mountain Minnows, 1 Honey Gourami, 3 Cherry barb, 1 Koi Angelfish, 4 female betta.
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post #7 of 9 Old 04-09-2014, 01:19 PM Thread Starter
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Hi again,
In response to Sandybottom yes I am drinking it!lol..think I will research what is acceptable in the UK..probably 200 haha.

All in quiet in the tank this week, no more losses since my original post but as you are doing Rocky I think I will just keep the existing fish for a good year or so and see what happens. Do you know if there are other species that are resistant to it? My shrimps, horse faced loach and small plec seem unaffected?

I did have one other fish that started to get a sore on it's side but since I put the salt in again after a good clean it seems to have healed nicely...not counting my chickens though! X
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post #8 of 9 Old 04-09-2014, 01:43 PM Thread Starter
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Just had a look at UK water standards and the maximum nitrate level allowed is 50mg/l. Quite frustrating when you start at that tap level as it's very hard to reduce it...doesn't seem to bother the fish though. Prior to this disease they have always been very healthy..
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post #9 of 9 Old 04-09-2014, 09:15 PM
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Sarah, I don't know if a horse faced loach or pleco would be susceptible to it, as I have neither, and from my research, it seems some species of fish are much more susceptible than others. Livebearers are notorious for contracting it easily. Shrimp you would not have to worry about. Apparently, there haven't been any known cases of them catching Columnaris. Nor snails, crabs, etc.

The thing is, it's a gram negative bacteria, and not all meds will work. A lot of antibiotics are gram POSITIVE, and that will not touch Columnaris. That is why I used Maracyn and Maracyn 2 at the same time (one is gram negative and the other is gram positive). The Furan 2 and Kanaplex are the same scenario. What one misses, the other should catch, in theory. But I had no luck no matter what I used. I didn't try triple sulfa, and I hear some people have luck with that. Maybe I didn't catch the signs early enough?

Just don't get complacent. Like I said, I went months at a time with no deaths, and thought I was home free. Then suddenly, one fish would get sick, and within a week or two, there would be another, and another, and on and on. Apparently it does not leave the water column. As long as fish are in there, it has hosts, and will remain. I've also read that it reproduces faster the higher the water temperature. You're supposed to keep it at under 76F or your fish deaths will happen faster. Some of my fish like warmer water and so that worried me too. I don't want my fish uncomfortable.

I've had some species of fish that took a LONG time to catch it. My Bolivian Ram and my Kribensis were in that tank for over two years before becoming ill. My two balloon mollies-I've had them almost two years, and they still with me! (And they say balloon mollies are delicate!) They say it just takes some kind of stress for it to hit. Well, water changes involve stress, and you can't skip that, so what is a person to do?

I've had turquoise rainbowfish, Australian rainbows and a Boesemanii in there for over a year, and not one of them has come down with it. Neither have my cloud minnows or Cherry barbs. Some bettas would get it quickly, but I also had a couple of bettas live for over two years when the disease was present, and when they died, I think it was from old age, as I'd had them for a year or two before the disease appeared in my tank.

So, there's really no set rule with this nasty disease. I've also read that Columnaris is ALWAYS present--in every tank. That its just waiting for a weakened fish to take advantage of . I don't know if that's true or not, but I do know that I take great care of my fish, never miss water changes or gravel vacs, keep a consistent temperature, etc., so my fish are certainly not in unsanitary surroundings. Its a mystery. It could also be parasites, as I did notice a fish with white stringy poop the other day, so I'm now treating that tank with Prazi Pro. The septicemia though, I don't believe parasites can cause that. And several of my fish had that before their deaths. I'll do two treatments with the Prazi and see if I have any more deaths in the coming months. Its funny, some fish would die quickly, and others would just seem to lose color and "waste away." That could be indicative of parasites. I'll do whatever I can without exposing my fish to endless medications. The problem is, where do you draw the line???

10 gallon- 8 Harlequin Rasboras, 1 female betta.

20 gallonH - 1 Peacock Gudgeon, 2 Skunk Cories, 1 Sparkling Gourami. , one male betta, 2 nerite snails.

55 gallon - 3 Turquoise Rainbows, 1 Boesemani Rainbow, 2 Australian Rainbow, 4 Gold Dust mollies, 1 L. Dorsigera, 2 White Cloud Mountain Minnows, 1 Honey Gourami, 3 Cherry barb, 1 Koi Angelfish, 4 female betta.
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columnaris , septicemia

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