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Epistylis Pictures And Questions.....

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As you know, I have been scoping for several months now, trying to figure out what is going on with one of my fish, Rocky. He went on an unauthorized "pond tour" a couple of summers ago and came back with something that I have been refering to as "The Creeping Crud". It comes and goes, and, no matter what treatments I have done, seems to reoccur with irregularity.

I had thought that Epistylis was a good guess, but, since it did not die with .3% salt or with salt dips, I had second thoughts. It is also said that it thrives in water full of detrius and less than quality parameters. Rocky has been in a large, clean tank - the filter boxes are cleaned regularly. The tank is run bare bottom. The water is UV treated. Yet he continued to show signs of "crud".

His "crud" consisted of whitish tufts - on his tail, head, sides and back. The tufts at times were very densely fuzzy - at other times seemed to have little strings with dots at the ends of them extending from them. There is a red sore at the base of each tuft.

Salt dips seem to make them worse for a day and then they go away, mostly. Then they will clear, only to reappear about a month or two later.

I have scraped, scoped, micron filtered, pressed, examined salt dip leavings, etc. and have never seen anything that resembles the stuff that is shown in various pictures. NOw I am one of the world's worst microscope users, I admit, but I would have thought I would have seem SOMETHING!

So - here is my question....

Paul - would you take a look at this:


Those swarmers look very much like the things I kept questioning as being perhaps Trichodina. They are the same size as the things I am seeing.


Some reading has said that, not only are there free swimming swarmers of this parasite, but that some species can and do live "off the stalk", as well as form a type of cyst at the ends of the stalks (the stingy stuff with roundy things on the ends?)

The more I see and read, the more I am believing that I am dealing with Epistylis.

Here is my NEXT question, then. I am assuming that all my PP dips and salt dips and all are perhaps killing some or most of what is on the fish, the fish is being reinfected on a regular basis from the tank. Reading shows that they can form cysts that are impervious to many treatments when encysted. I am also assuming that these cysts are dwelling somewhere where I cannot reach them with the UV lamp and somewhere where I do not clean them (bio-media?) So I need to BLAST the tank - cycle and all to conquer this.

If I blast the tank, I need to know that when I put the fish back in, I am not tranferring anything back with them.

I can do PP dips and tub to tub on a daily or near daily basis. BUt how do I know when he has been "cured". The "Crud" waited almost 3 months this last time to come back. Blasting a 55 gallon tank to restart and tub to tub with those big fish is not easy - and I would prefer not to have to do it any more times than absolutely necessary.

Epsitylis seems to defy my microscopic abilities!

So - Blast the tank? Tub to tub with Salt/PP dips? IF so, how long? How often?


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Thanks, Kerris! :)

Well, I might as well document what I am going to try. If nothing else, perhaps it may help others.

From reading, I have come to the conclusion that I am probably dealing with one of three things. Epistulis parasite, Columnaris bactreia, or a fungus of unknown genus.

I sincerely doubt that this is a fungus or Columnaris, for it does not fit all the criteria, but I will leave them in the equation just for throughness.

The treatment of choice is potassium permanganate and/or salt. Which is just what I have begun. So I am going to keep trying.

I am going to do salt dips followed by PP baths a couple of times more. This combination seems to have had a great effect on the health of both fish involved. One treatment helped substantially, even if it did not solve the problem completely.

The plan:

Since I do not physically have the abilty to change extremely large volumes of water, I am going to do this step by step.

Each fish will be placed in a 20 gallon Rubbermaid tub. Each tub will have an Emperor 280 hung from it and run - two of the filters from the original tank. Yes - I have to assume that they are compromised, but, so are the fish, and the filters are cycled.

Next, the main tank, including the Ehiem filter that is left will be broken down and completely sterilized. All Eheim media will be boiled. The rest of the tank will be treated with a strong PP blast, rinsed and dried. I then plan on filling this tank as I can- with the water not needed on a daily basis for all my other fish. I have plenty of water now - 40 gallons a day, but still not enough to use willy-nilly.

I then am going to pull one Emeperor 280 off one 20 gallon tub and sterilize it. The tub will then go into uncycled mode. The fish will be dipped in salt, followed by a PP bath. During the bath, the tub will be emptied and cleaned and the water replaced 100%. The fish will go back into the new water with Prime to control ammonia. Feeding will be restricted.

I will continue these dips for 5 rounds - every other day or every 3 days, depending on how the fish reacts. The fish will be scraped and the water micron filtered for microscopic examination (even though I have NEVER found anything, I think - I shall be looking for the things posted above).

When the main tank is filled, the 280 and Eheim that have been sterilized will be restarted with nicely cycling bio-media that I keep in my sterile tank. The treated fish will be replaced into the main tank and I will move on to the next fish, repeating the treatment.

With luck, within a couple of weeks, I can clear this problem, not only from the fish, but remove anything that may be hiding in my tank waiting to reappear and attack the fish.

It has been waaaaay too long that poor Rocky has been suffering with these problems. It is not fair to him. I also have to be concerned that, if this thing is capable of encysting and popping up months later, that I may have or may still infect other tanks! The sooner I rid the house of it, the better.

That is the plan. I shall post up as it happens. I have just started an Ehiem's worth of new bio media in the sterile tank to seed nicely. I am going to give it a couple of weeks to do this properly. I cannot deal being without a good cycle. So this has to happen first.

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I found a fish on the net with epistylis


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Thanks, Sandy! :) That is on a light colored fish and is harder to see - but it certainly looks about right! In fact it looks nearly an exact match!

I guess the part that bothers me the most is that I cannot seem to scope ANYTHING resembling what this is describes as being. I am totally incompetant - something I am not used to! It is driving me crazy!

This was one of Rocky's outbreaks.....


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Reading about what you are going through with your fish has really caught my eye. I hope that he is doing well. I found this article when I was researching. I don't know if it will help you, but I wanted to try!


:heart to the poor sick fishie!

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Some "stuff about epistylus-like creatures:

I can tell you with a large degree of certainty that most of the info found on the net is a jumbled mass of possibilities. May, might, can and could are the main words used to describe instances where parasites "could" become problems. BUT, I have found that ciliates are the exception to almost every rule. They defy everthing we hold as conventional wisdom. Perhaps that is why they are still around after a few billion years of evolution has gone on around them.

Epistylus, carchesium, vorticella, campanella and several others make up what we call "bell animalcules". They are ALL considered free-living. They ALL attach to any place that allows them to and that has a high volume of bacters, algaes and the like, flowing by. This is mainly on the glass, ornaments and gravel (as well as in the filter). But, they ALL have the ability to attach to a fish if there is a breach in the slime coat. However, they DO NOT feed off of anything on or from the fish it is attached to. JUST stuff floating by in the water. The point of attachment is where the problems lies. Bacterias ans fungus can invade at these locales.

If you were to watch any of these creatures in their natural state, you would see a string, (coiled or straight, branched or single stalked) with either a ball or a champagne glass shaped "head" sitting on the end of the stalk. When they are retracted, they look ballons on a string, when they are unfurled and sifting the water, they look more like a flower on a stem. Most can retract/unfurl, some cannot. They can go from being unfurled to being balled-up at a speed much faster than the human eye can detect. In fact, some species of bell animalcule are known to possess the fastest reflexes on earth besides the common dog/cat flea.

The "swarmers" aren't really multiple swarmers from a cyst like Ich trophonts. Instead, epistylus-like swarmers are more like uprooted (forced or self inflicted) individuals in search of substrate to attach to. Sometimes without a trailing stalk, somethimes with. But they ALL have cilia at one end of them when they are in motile form (usually in the front, some species in the back). Make no mistake, they LIKE to be attached but they can and will pack up their bags and move to a new local if necessary. So, if lots of swarmers are found in mulm or slime exams, its because the action of transferring the samples has uprooted them. Conversely, if you ever see a small ball of mulm with a bunch of "strings" protruding out from it, your probably looking at an uprooted colony that has left their stalks behind.

If a very careful extraction of a fuzzy tuft is done, a good, preserved sample should be able to be examined. If you were to find ball, bell, campagne flute shaped organisms, some with stalks still trailing or attached, then you've got your culprit.

Try food coloring to stain your samples. Often, you cannot see the individuals that are dead or sitting still unless their bodies have been stained. Just a thought.

This is my undrstanding of them. Just tidbits of info, really. I hope some it is helpful. :D

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I have a box of old gel from the theatre in the basement so I hauled that out. Midnight blue and Hot Flesh worked very well! :lol:

Those things look awfully familiar. I do not see champange glasses though - but there is a lot of hair around.

I have been working to get a nice string of something on a slide. I have the food coloring all ready.

Rocky had a loooooong string of something coming out the other day, but it broke off and floated away. Other than isolating ( :unsure::( ) , he and Omar seem to be doing OK in the salt. I am going to break the tank down and reset it, but I need to seed the new biomedia really well (I cannot work with a 55 gallon cycling tank!) and I need to heal my back well enough that I can lift all that water.

Right now, Sterling's tank is not quite up to par and I am changing 75% of his tank daily as well as my normal changes. I can only lift about 1 gal at a time - so this occupies the best part of a day. I cannot add in another tank, yet!

I think I will try again to take a picture of what I am seeing and see if your wonderful brain and great eyes can make something of it.....

THANK YOU, Paul. Once again - I cannot tell you how wonderful your help is!

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Hahaha, I can see you sitting in front of your computer with a couple colored sheets of plastic going, oooooooooh :lol:

I sure hope your back begins to get better soon. What a rotten time for it to happen too. :unsure: If I were there, you know I would lug buckets of water around for you........ :heart

Im pretty confident that the answer to your questions about the fuzzy tufts lies within the tufts themselves.

Columnaris is a possibility. Do you have any good flexibacter photos for comparison?


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