Kuhli loaches dying horrible deaths - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 10 Old 03-14-2014, 09:16 PM Thread Starter
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Kuhli loaches dying horrible deaths

I'm in desperate need of help. My Kuhli loaches are all dying horrible, violent deaths and I can't figure out whats causing it. I've been researching for hours and I have found nothing on what could be causing this.

When I first received my loaches, they appeared healthy. But after the first day one loach died. It didn't have any psychical signs of disease so I checked my water quality and everything was fine, 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite and 20 nitrate. I just brushed the death off as stress from being shipped (They were ordered online) or that it had an internal problem. A week later, one of the living loaches appeared to have a small scratch on his face. It looked like he had scraped a himself on something in the tank. It wasn't serious and he was behaving normally so I left him in the tank, thinking it would heal on its own. Well, when I woke up in the morning he had died. His body looked horrible. A huge chunk of his face was gone, parts of his body were bright red, and he had a white film that was coming off of his body. The chunk of missing face was exactly where his scratch was. I unfortunately did not take any pictures of this loaches body.

For the next few weeks, I was closely examining the living loaches. They were checked for signs of disease and injuries daily and they were perfectly fine and healthy during those few weeks. But, a few days ago one of the loaches had a scratch on it's face that looked exactly like the one the loach that died earlier had. I quickly put him into a quarantine tank. I had no idea what disease this was, so I started treating him with Mardel Maracyn 2 since it cures a somewhat broad range of illnesses. His scratch quickly became a chunk, and that chunk gets bigger and bigger everyday. His barbels are getting shorter and some are completely gone. There's barely any part of that face even left and he has completely stopped eating, but is alive.

Pictures of loach with missing face:

I couldn't really get a good picture because he wouldn't stop moving. The missing chunk is directly in front of his eyes and you can kind of see it in these pictures, but it's a much more severe injury than what these images show.

Yesterday, another one of the loaches started looking sick. He had a single white patch on his body and I moved him into quarantine with the other sick loach. The patch looks nothing like Columnaris or Ich and I couldn't find anything that matched the description of the white patch. He started to rapidly deteriorate, the white patch spread to his sides and belly, he couldn't swim anymore and would occasionally makes these horrible seizure-like twitches and shakes, he had a a black bruise-like spot on his side, and he had small patches of missing flesh on his body. He died last night.

Pictures of dead loach:

My tank is 20 gallons, cycled, (0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and 20 nitrate. I use the API freshwater masters test kit) and has live plants. It is stocked with 1 male Betta, 6 neon tetras, and 3 kuhli loaches (I originally had 5. When the first loach died, I purchased a replacement. But after the second one died, I didn't add any more loaches in fear that it would get sick and die as well. Last night I lost a third loach) I do 30% water changes once a week and always remove uneaten food and fish waste.

My tetras and betta are all healthy, it's only the loaches that are being affected. I don't know whats causing this or why my fish are getting sick in the first place. It's really heartbreaking watching this happen to my fish. If you have an idea of what this disease may be, tell me please. I don't want to lose any more fish.
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post #2 of 10 Old 03-14-2014, 10:36 PM
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Sound completely totaly horrendously aweful. So sorry to hear of your problems. Kuhlis are my favorite fish. Sorry but I have no idea what is happening to your fish, but this post will bump you up at least.
Good luck!

"Be the change you want to see in the world."
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post #3 of 10 Old 03-15-2014, 02:50 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you.

Kuhli Loaches are one of my favorite fish as well and it is heartbreaking watching them die like this. I really hope someone comes along soon that knows what this is because I'm completely stumped.
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post #4 of 10 Old 03-15-2014, 03:10 PM
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Ugh! Sorry to hear about your poor fishies :( It sounds like and looks like they're developing ulcers. Unfortunately ,it's hard to know the cause because there are more than one reason that they can stem from. Bacterial infections are probably the most common.

If they weren't so far advanced, I'd say to quarantine them, do daily water changes and add a bit of Melafix to the water. But at this point, you might want to try a gram-negative bacterial treatment like Furan2, Triple Sulfa, or Tetracycline. Most will agree that meds. are a last resort because the treatment can be worse than the disease but it sounds like you're at the last resort stage.

I have never kept loaches so hopefully someone will come along soon who has since I don't know how sensitive they are.

Animal testing is a terrible idea; they get all nervous and give the wrong answers.
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post #5 of 10 Old 03-15-2014, 04:07 PM Thread Starter
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It does seem like ulcers after looking at a few pictures of it and its symptoms. But, do ulcers normally occur and kill so quickly? Both of the dead loaches died within 10-12 hours of showing symptoms of illness. The only loach that has survived longer than that is the one with chunks missing from its face, but he is not doing well and I don't know if he'll survive for much longer. Fortunately, I had Tetracycline lying around and added it to the ulcer face loaches' quarantine tank, so he probably has a higher chance of surviving this now.

Also, I have two other Kuhlis that are in my main tank. They don't have any symptoms of ulcers but one of them is starting to act extremely erratic and completely different from it's normal behavior. It is darting around the tank, swimming along the top of the water and repeatedly sticking its head out of the water, and it even tried jumping out of the tank! The loach in the second group of pictures had this same behavior in it's first signs of illness. (white patches) This loach however, doesn't have any psychical signs of disease. Should I add this loach to quarantine? Heck, should I put both of my main tank loaches in quarantine?
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post #6 of 10 Old 03-15-2014, 04:26 PM
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Typically, ulcers are the later stage of something that's been brewing all along. I don't think I'd treat fish that aren't showing any symptoms at the moment but keep a close eye on them for now.

And water changes, water changes, water changes. You can't go wrong with clean water in the meantime.

Is there something stressing these fish out? I know they're energetic but.....

Animal testing is a terrible idea; they get all nervous and give the wrong answers.
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post #7 of 10 Old 03-15-2014, 04:59 PM Thread Starter
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I've been doing water changes in the quarantine tank daily.

There isn't anything in the tank that would make them stressed, at least nothing I know of. There's a jaguar skull decoration along with a piece of fake driftwood that has plenty of cracks and crevices for them to hide in, the substrate is black sand, it has live plants, (Anubias nana, Water wisteria and Amazon sword) their tank mates are all peaceful, the water is at a constant 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the tank is cycled and it's water parameters are perfect. Plus, only one of the loaches in my main tank is acting oddly, the other one is behaving normal. He only started doing this about two days ago and although they are hyper fish, what hes doing is not a normal behavior. The only explanation I have is that he's getting sick as well, since one of the dead loaches displayed this exact same behavior in his early disease symptoms. I'm definitely going to keep a close eye on him and I'll make sure to tell you if he seems to improve or deteriorate.
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post #8 of 10 Old 03-16-2014, 01:19 AM
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Just in case I would up water changes on the main tank, too. It can only help.

Otherwise, I have no idea ;/ Loaches seem to have some very odd diseases that can turn up.

Do you know if these fish were wild caught or aquarium bred?

So sorry that this is happening to you.
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post #9 of 10 Old 03-16-2014, 01:37 AM
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I'll say that when those kinds of loaches die, they can become quite a mess.

What kind of black sand is it? That was my first thought - the substrate. Got through till this last post you made for it to come up. Might be that the sand is too sharp for them?

This is a good example of why it's important to quarantine new fish. You just never know what you're going to get. Hopefully whatever is taking out your kuhlis does not start claiming other fish too.

I would get them out of the main tank yesterday.

125 - BGK, chanchito cichlid, pictus cats, silver dollars, palmas bichir
125 - cichlids (severums, bolivian rams, chocolate), rainbows ( turquoise, red), loaches (angelicus, zebra, kuhli and horseface), plecos (BN, RL and clown), denison barbs, tiretrack eel, pearl gouramis, betta
90 - Congo tetras, african knife, upside down cats, spotted ctenopoma, kribensis, delhezzi bichir
2.5 - betta
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post #10 of 10 Old 04-18-2014, 07:35 PM Thread Starter
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I apologize for not updating.

The sick loach died, but the other two seem to be okay and are showing no signs of disease. However, one of my neon tetras suddenly became ill with the same disease the loaches had and it appears to be dying right now. The skin is eroded on it's side, it's twitching rapidly, and lying on it's side on bottom of the quarantine tank. It's the exact same way the loaches died. Should I start treating my whole tank with medication? I do not want to lose any more fish.

The loaches were wild caught, as kuhlis are near impossible to breed in captivity. They were ordered online and all of the ones I ordered died, the only survivors were ones I bought at a petsmart. I'm thinking that he sent me diseased fish... The sand is very fine and smooth, there aren't any sharp edges in it and I doubt that is the problem.
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