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Pearlscale Dropsy?

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Guest Iain

Hi,

I have a Pearlscale who's lived on the bottom of the tank for a long time now. He's developed a new skin condition that is very worrying -but I'm not sure if you'd call it pineconing (he has had this before and we've got it under control through water changes and increasing salt levels) He also used to be very sensitive to acid conditions in the tank and developed white skin where he lay on the gravel. We've moved them to a much larger tank now(about 120 litres) with a similarly big waterfall filter (with lots of ceramic biofilter) and since then we've had no problems with acidity or ammonia (readings are on the alkali side of neutral and ammonia appears to be 0). We tried to establish the tank for about a month, feeding it with dirty water from the old tank to kick start the biological filter. Even so we've been keeping an eye on them for problems(I 'm afraid I don't have nitrite or nitrate levels readings but I can try and get these) We generally do a change of water every week (about 1x 10ltr bucket) even though the readings seem to be okay. He generally does long stringy whitish poos but i always put this down to the fact he eats less food because of his decreased mobility. He's never suffered from a loss of appetite and seems to be healthier when he's getting by on a little food. Anyway all is normal with him except for these skin sacs which seem to be blooming (theres one large one , plus a couple of very small ones). He has seemed a little more bloated than normal recently, possibly this is a development of that. Other factors that have changed have been a large increase in temperature (water is up to about 24c because of weather, usually about 20c). Although we've been floating bottles of frozen water this doesn't seem to bring down the temperature due to the large size of the tank. Anyway we're worried but not sure what treatment might be appropriate. We've still got the old tank so could set up a fish hospital if that's the way to go. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

All the best, Iain

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Guest Iain

I've got a picture but not sure how i can get it up here, i'm getting asked for the URL but i have no image posted on the web as its still on the hard drive. Any easy way of getting it up here? Otherwise you have to use your imagination; I'd describe the largest of the three sacs as being fluid filled, balloon like, almost spherical and 2-3mm across. It looks almost tic like but is very obviously formed from the skin (rather than the scale but don't take my word for it). Previously dropsy appeared to be the scales standing up rather than lying down flat and this is nothing like that. That said there does seem to be a very slight raising of the scales as well. He's not a happy bunny... I'll have another go getting the image posted tomorrow.

Iain

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Hello Ian, and welcome to Koko's! :)

A picture would very much help, yes - and the way to get it here is simple. You can open a free account at Photobucket.com, and upload the picture from your hard drive to Photobucket. When that is done, you can just copy the URL that is under the picture, and paste it to here. Let me know if you have any problems with that. :)

It could very well be that your little pearlscale has dropsy - it is very hard especially on that breed to see it due to the already funky scales. However, we don't wonna get anybody worried just yet without a picture. Stringy poop sounds like something bacterial is going on. Even if a fish doesn't eat much, the poop would still be the color of the food.

Oh, and when you say the water was acidic, how low exactly did the pH go? You might have a bigger tank, but you still could have a problem going on there. Ph is partly tank dependend - a smaller tank soils faster with fish's waste, and therefore the pH can go lower faster. However, only part of it is tank related. There could be a lack of puffer in you tap water as well, which also causes low pH. The buffer will keep the pH at a certain level, and the more buffer is in the water, the more stable pH you are going to have. Some waters, as well as well water, has very low pH, and things can only be straightened out with adding buffer to the water. Do you have a pH kit to test the water?

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Guest Iain

Thanks, I'll get that picture sorted now.

We have been using a pH test kit and it seems to be fairly consistent. The tank is big and we only have the three fish but I also found the lack of change a bit surprising. I think the reason there has been a change in the local water supply. There's a drought on in Australia and I think a couple of months ago they might have changed our supply to a new reservoir. I kind of suspect this might be in the blue mountains which is a limestone area. The tea bags started fizzing a couple of months back when making tea and its been hard to get a decent cuppa since. Possibly this is acting as a natural buffer, the tap water is certainly quite alkali.

On the other hand when we changed tanks we added a bogwood log. This might make the water a little more acidic but it was soaked for over a week beforehand. I think that got most of the tannins out. I did have to take the log out soon after because I noticed some tiny white invertebrates on it. Almost impossible to see except against the dark wood, but they seemed to have a flicking, or twitching movement. I took the log out and used hot water to wash it and soak it. Also had a small infestation of snails from one of the new plants but we seem to have got rid of these for over a month now.

One thing i wandered was whether it might have anything to do with salt levels. Seems unlikely but I had heard fish can absorb too much water if the salinity wasn't high enough. This would seem a bit extreme considering we usually add a small amount with most water changes. Might be worth testing though.

I'll look into getting that picture up now,

Thanks heaps,

Iain

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Guest Iain

Hi Andrea, Here's that pic. Luckily he doesn't move too much and he's lying on small pea gravel. Even if he didn't get much worse (i'm not quite that optimistic...) there's the worry over further infection if the skin sac bursts. I feel quite sorry for the little guy. At least it's not put him off his food but not much does...Iainpearly.jpg

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Guest Iain

Spoke to the guy in my local aquarium today and he wasn't sure what this condition was either. He didn't rule out dropsy but suggested taking the fish and wiping multicure over the sacs to gently burst them. he thought this should sort it out and didn't think it was necessary to set up hospital tank. I'd prefer to set up a hospital tank myself but i'm very open to suggestions. The multicure I was given contains malachite green, methylene blue, acriflavine. It's supposed to provide treatment for white spot, velvet disease and fungal diseases. Pretty sure it's not one of these but it may work. Otherwise I can go to one of the larger aquariums in Sydney and see if I can pick up any antibiotics. Seems to be hard to get any thing except multicures, antifungals and antiparasite treatments though. Hopefully someone might recognise this condition; still hoping it might not be dropsy.

All the best,

Iain

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Guest Iain

Done a few water tests again. Results are-

pH 7.2

Ammonia 0ppm

Nitrite 0ppm

hardness -carbonate 2dkH

hardness -general 6dgH

Last two listed we've not done before, hopefully we got it right.

In the old tank the pH dropped to 6.2 or lower (readings only go that low). Since then we've changed tanks to one that is 4x as big (old one being about 30ltrs), we've also changed water supplies due to the old reservoir being low. Since then pH has always been on the alkali side of neutral when we've tested.

We are worried about salt concentrations though. We do add salt to the water most times during changes, but we sometimes put in more water than we take out. Don't know if this might cause problems but at the moment I'd prefer to err on the side of too much since the pearlscale has bloating amongst the symptoms.

At the moment he's slowly getting more of these swellings but at least it's slowed down and he's still taking food.

Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

Best wishes,

Iain & Helen

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Hi Iain and Helen,

Sorry to hear about your pearlie. I was reading through the diagnosis forums and found an excellent post by Ranchu-girl herself (above!!) that covers very well dropsy on apearlscale and how it can develop into blisters later like this. It covers dropsy treatment and shows some pics that look very similar to your pearl..I shall drag and paste it below for you to read.

I would like to say also that you might look into a salinity meter kit to check your salinity. While low salting can be a tonic it is very easy to lose track when you are adding salt at every water change. This is called salt creep. And pearlscales are rather sensitive to salt- in fact many people who specialise in pearlscales are known to be extra careful with salting because of the likelhood that the individual pearl scales osmote the salt less efficiently than fish with flat scales causing popping and damage to the pearls.

If your water is running through limestone you are getting natural buffering in your water- which is a good thing. I wasn't sure about the D in the KH and GH readings. Not familiar with that way of testing which test kit is that?

It may be that you are going to need some antibiotic treatment esp good is medicated food which you can order online if you cant get it locally.

If it is dropsy (swollen body) you will need to remove all the salt and add back only epsom salt (in aQT presumably because you have other fish) This will reduce any swelling and hopefully the blister swellings. Other salts do not have this effect. You also need to bring up the temp. Well its all explained here:

Bulging eyes, together with a bubble coming out from under scales, sound a lot like dropsy to me. Bubbles do not show up all the time with dropsy, but it is very common that they go together. Since a pearlscale by nature already looks like a big whiskey barrel with his scales and body shape, it is so much harder to see dropsy on a pearlscale, and sometimes it is only visible at an already advanced stage.

Drospy isn't exactly an illness by itself, but rather a symptom of a few possible illnesses. Dropsy is a bacterial problem, and needs to be treated with antibiotics, as well as warmer water and epsom salt in the water (1/8 teaspoon per 5 gl). And the sooner the better, as the chances of a later diagnoses are are greatly reducing the outcome. And even with an early diagnosis, dropsy is often fatal, and the fish will always need watching in the future, since it's very common to return.

Anyway, I found a link to a fish that also had bubbles on his body due to dropsy, and the success story of his treatment. I didn't contact JoAnn (the owner of the fish) if the dropsy ever returned though

http://www.marquette.edu/~buxtoni/puregold...ase/dropsy.html.

edit: sorry that link apparantly no longer works- but obviously there are sucess stories even though dropsy can be rather serious.

Good luck and best wishes :)

Edited by Trinket

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Imogen, here goes the correct link - the website owner has since switched servers or something....

http://www.mu.edu/~buxtoni/puregold/diseas...e.htm#by%20name

Ian, it is very hard to get anything antibacterial in Australia, unfortunately - I'll contact Fishmerized and see if she comes up with any meds, since she is in your part of the world as well. Acriflivine is a good ingredient - however, doesn't do a thing for anything bacterial like dropsy.

Follow the link above, click on the name "dropsy", and then click on the link "picture" - the post that Imogen mentions comes up there, with the badly dropsied ranchu, and that nasty bubble on its side. The bubble on your pearlie does look different however - more clean. If you are thinking about popping that bubble, whatever you do, do not do it in or above your tank. Whatever puzz is in there, you don't want it contaminating the tank the fish is in. If you must, pop that thing above a bowl with tank water, just in case the pearlie hops from your hands. You don't want him landing on the floor.

I'll go see if Fishmerized can help you out some... :)

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Guest Iain

Hi,

Sorry for the delay in replying there. I've got my Dad over on holiday and we were away for a few days. Helen's brother came in every day to carry on feeding and medicating and our fishy is still feeding well and active.

Those bubbles haven't got any smaller, possibly slightly bigger, but his body swelling has gone down slightly. So far I've been going for a very soft approach since the aquarium shops I showed pictures to didn't seem to sure what it was and recommended different things.

At the moment i'm using Melafix which is a very mild antiseptic. This was mainly to reduce the risk of secondary infections if those bubbles burst but I was hoping it might reduce the severity of the infections and give a better chance at fighting it off himself. Apparently this medication doesn't affect the biological filter so for the moment i've left him in with the other fish; i don't want to stress him any more than necessary.

He's still eating well but seems a little constipated. I'm going to add the Epsom salts you've suggested since this is supposed to be a good laxative as well as being a widely recommended treatment for dropsy. From what i've read regular aquarium salts can cause swelling as the fish can have problems getting them out of their bodies, epsom salts aren't supposed to pass across the gut and can suck out some of the excess fluids.

Before i started the treatment I took out a tenth of the tank water each day for a couple of days and replaced it with unsalted water. After this we did notice he recovered some of the colour in his skin.

The temperature has been about 77F for the last couple of weeks so it's relatively hot, possibly not hot enough but I didn't want to put him in a hospital tank if I could avoid it, and I didn't want to stress the other fish out too much. They usually start getting jumpy at this temperature. Normally we'd be floating a bottle of frozen water in the top of the tank but we've stopped that now. This only ever dropped tank temperature by about 1C anyway.

Those hardness readings were in German degrees whatever that is, we found out how to convert this, the readings are -

Carbonate kH 35ppm

General kH 107ppm

I tried to get a salinity meter but the ones available over here are only accurate for marine aquariums. One of the shops has offered to test the water using an electronic meter they have. I'll try and do that in the next few days.

Before I went on holiday the gravel siphon stopped working and I had to get it going the old fashioned way. Pleasantly surprised at the way the water tasted but guess that's possibly not the best way to go about testing your water.

Have you any suggestions for what to do once I've finished the seven day Melafix treatment? Should I repeat treatment at any point? I'd guess not but I wasn't sure if this would leave them vulnerable. I'll do some more water changes to remove some more aquarium salts when the melafix treatment is finished.

With the epsom salts I'd guess you'd dose for the tank size and then continue dosing any water added (when we're changing water) to keep it at the same level. From what I've read this needs to be done for at least a month after scales have returned to normal.

Bit of a big learning curve with this one. I'm willing to order meds online if you think I need to step up the treatment but at the moment there seems to be some improvement.

I'll leave off doing anything about the bubbles for the moment unless you think I should. At the moment there's at least half a dozen but only one is really large.

Sorry for the big info dump; I'll be checking this regularly now I'm back. Thanks again for your help,

All the best, Iain (& Helen)

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Guest Iain

PS Helen just noticed the large bubble has finally popped by itself. We'll let you know what happens....

Iain

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Guest Iain

Thanks - I've checked that link out. I actually came across the same one last week and it seemed to give the clearest guidance on treating dropsy. I didn't have the meds it described and still wasn't sure that was the problem at the time. One of the aquariums suggested fish pox, possibly combined with dropsy. I checked fish pox out and don't think they'd look like the blisters I showed you. So that treatment is definitely looking like the best course of action...

Couple of Q's tho-

Do I need to move the pearlscale to a hospital tank to treat with epsom salts? (I haven't started yet as i was waiting to change some tank water after the melafix treatment)

Does the 1/8 teaspoon of epsom salts per 5 gallons seem about right? That's what I'd read but on the tub I bought it suggested 1 teaspoon per 10 litres, effectively 2 teaspoons per gallon -massive difference there. These instructions were written on with marker pen- epsom salts came in a takeaway container. Basically these are telling me to use 80x as much as the instructions in the article...scary!!!

Lastly the temperature of 86F (30c), I'd read somewhere this temperature was fatal to goldfish (being coldwater). Am I right in thinking this might actually be their physical limit? If so it would be as high as you can go to kill off bacteria without killing the fish (so you'd have to check the thermostat very carefully).

Ummm, last thing...do you think it might actually be possible there is no bacterial infection and we've just been too cavalier with the aquarium salts? If so is epsom salts a good way of helping the pearlscale get rid of his excess salts as well as the excess fluids.

Might be getting a bit optimistic here tho...

I'll set up the hospital tank in case I need it for the heat treatment and epsom salts. I'm still a bit hesitant to treat him for bacteria if it is a problem with salts (or the fairly rapid change from acid water to alkaline, even though the water was balanced between tanks over the course of a week, probably not long enough still)

Since i've gone overboard on questions again the ones in this entry are probably most important. I'm not entirely sure what to do next once the Melafix treatment finishes on Saturday.

Thanks for holding my hand, it's all a bit confusing!

Cheers, Iain

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It's interesting to me that one bubble popped after a water change and reducing the salt. It's only my opinion but I think you may have had a case of salt creep. It can damage pearlscale bubbles which are extra fragile. I find my bubble eye and pearlscales are specially sensitive to salt. If it were me I'd take out all the salt and give her perfect water for a good break.

The dropsy treatment is 1/8th tsp to 5 gallons and the temp should be 80- I never go above that. You need extra dissolved oxygen at that temp too.

Have any more bubbles "popped" ? What does his poop like- has there been any? Under the left pectoral I can see a white warty looking lump- is that just the pic? Are there any tiny red spots anywhere on the fish?

How long has your pearlie been upside down and has she been treated with anything else other than the melafix?

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Guest Iain

I'm going to the salt tested at a local shop then Ill start dropping the salt to a low level. I spoke to someone at another local aquarium who suggested the same but also suggested I continue the Melafix treatment to provide antibacterial protection. I couldn't really raise temperature enough to make a difference as I think you need a high jump in temp to knock off bacteria. Current temp is 25c and max would be 26c.

Once I've got the salt reduced I might start to add some epsom salts. I've increased aeration of the tank already. I think the lump under his pectoral is either a joint or may be another bubble; there doesn't seem to be anything else going on either. No small red spots either as far as I can tell. I think I said earlier that he had long stringy whitish poo. Think I might have got this wrong. When I've seen them recently they've been long thin with bubbles and lumps of normal coloured poo; this is fairly normal for him. He's been on the bottom of the tank for about 18 months and seems to cope ok. He always had a dodgy swim bladder and seemed to be less stressed when it finally gave in. He can still move around the tank, especially when there is food on the go. We always make sure he gets something to eat but he never gets a lot. He can be a bit prone to constipation and he seems to be suffering a bit from that now . that's another reason I thought a dose of Epsom salts might be good for him. i don't want to fast him at the moment when he's weak.

At the moment so far its only been early water changes and melafix. We're going to start up again on the water changes tomorrow.

I'll try and get a few pics up in case this helps,

Cheers, Iain

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Sounds like a good game plan. The epsom is a great laxative anyway. Let us know how things go and good luck :)

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Guest Iain

Ok- Just done a 25% unsalted water change and retreated with melafix. I took a before and after water sample so I'm gonna get that checked out now. Will keep fingers crossed...

Incidentally I found out that antibiotics are restricted over here so aquaria aren't allowed to sell them. They are available from vets tho. I'll see how this goes before going down that road.

All the best,

Iain

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Got the results back. Measurements of salinity were in MicroSiemens ( a measure of electrical conductance). Hope you're familiar with these, I'd never heard of it before.

The first sample was 2.25 ms. This first sample was after I'd already removed two buckets a week earlier and replaced with unsalted water. Going by the second set of measurements (current salinity) I'd say this would have initially been more in the region of 2.75 when we started having problems.

Yesterday I removed three 10ltr buckets and replaced with three of unsalted water. This was the 25% water change recommended at the end of seven days of Melafix treatment. We're continuing with the Melafix treatment for another seven days; after that I need to figure out what to do if there's still a problem.

The current water measures 1.5 ms. Apparently 2 is about normal and the Aquarist suggested bumping salt levels up, generally because of infection risk. Going by what you've told me, and what I've found myself I'm going to stick with lower salts and Melafix. I might try and take some more salts out in a couple of days and replace with epsom salts but I don't want to do any changes too quickly. I was a bit worried I might have overdone the changes with that last water change, but hopefully there is more risk when the salts are being increased.

Anyway the fishes all seem to be behaving normally and our Pearlscale is in much the same state. He seems to be less dropsied to me even tho he still has his skin bubbles. Possibly I may need to lance them at some point but for the time being I'll sit tight and hope he comes right. He's pretty plucky anyhow so I think he's in with a fair chance.

Best wishes,

Iain

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Guest Iain

pearly3.jpg

pearly2.jpg

pearly1.jpg

Not sure how clear these are. He's got a few more of these bubbles and his scales are up a bit again. At least he's still eating well. Going to try chasing up some antibiotics and may try and get him into a completely unsalted tank with epsom salts. Any idea if osmotic shock might be a problem? If so I can transfer water from the other tank and change it a bit day by day.

Hopefully I can locate some useful meds; if I spend enough money on them he might come right himself anyway :)

We'll see what happens anyhow...

All the best,

Iain

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Guest Iain

Wah, those came out huge somehow. Hopefully they don't take ages to load up. Certainly looks like a very bad case of dropsy now...

Iain

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Wow, the poor thing! I have never seen so many bubbles on a fish. Does he spend all his time laying like this, or is he mostly sitting on his belly? I wonder if the constant contact with the gravel might have something to do with the dropsy coming like that. Gravel harbors all kinds of bacteria, and some of them are downright dangerous if the gravel isn't cleaned regularly. And even then, you might miss some waste that can attract anerobic bacteria. With the fish constantly sitting on top of that gravel, I wonder.... :unsure:

In that stage, I would start the epsom salt right away, and get the other salt out of the tank. The sooner the better with dropsy. As for antibiotics, I doubt you'll be able to order any, unless you have a vet who would be willing to give you some. Australia is a bit tricky, if not downright impossible, with their laws in regards to antibiotics. I mean, I do understand the reason behind it all, it is just frustrating if you ever need anything.

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Hi Iain, I have successfully treated dropsy using triple sulfa in a clean water environment, it depends on what type of bacteria is responsible for the dropsy.

"If you live in a country where medicated food and antibiotic water treatments are not available, this is an alternate treatment for dropsy, septicimia and other internal bacterial infections. Tri-sulfa has been successful in treating dropsy in two of my own fish and I am aware of two other cases that have also been successful.

There are several brands of tri-sulfa available, some are given as daily doses to the tank and others are given 3 days apart. The ingredients to look for in a tri-sulfer product are sulfadiazine, sulfadimidine, sulfamerazine.

These ingredients are monosodium salts so it is not necessary or advisable to also have high concentrations of regular salt in the tank, although I have salted to .1% without problems. Also it is not known how these monosodium salts react with epsom, although 2 cases that used TS also had epsom in the water without any obvious problems.

Tri-Sulfa appears to be very gentle on sick fish with no adverse reactions noted. It is not gentle however on bacteria and therefore should not be used in an established tank or it will send your cycle crashing.

Treatment should be in a hospital tank without filtration but an airstone is advisable for circulation. In all cases noted it was not necessary to heat the tank to achieve results so a plastic/rubber container would be ok. Check water parameters daily and do partial water change and redose medication if necessary. In my experience, using the treatment that is repeated after 3 days, it was not necessary to change any water until the third day. I believe this is possible because the TS so effectively kills all bacteria that there is none left to convert any waste into ammonia.

Recovery is usually obvious by the end of the treatment however it is advisable to keep the fish in the hospital tank with daily water changes for at least another week to allow it to convalesce."

Edited by Fishmerised

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Guest Iain

We've got the old tank cleaned off so we can try a few things now without worrying about the main tank cycle. I've seen the tri-sulphate treatments around so I'll look into this. Certainly need to step up the medication a bit as he's not looking any better just yet; good to hear this treatment isn't too hard on the fish. I'd like to get him started on something stronger since I can't use heat to knock anything off.

He's got an appointment with a bird vet next Monday (if he can hang on that long...) Seems to be one of the only vets in Sydney stocking antibiotic meds for fish. Unfortunately you need to take your fish with you due to the legal thing. Does mean if he has to have a job he get's it done by someone who knows where to put the needle. Kind of hoping they have small needles for small pets...guess his resemblance to a small orange balloon isn't making this approach too attractive. Yet to ask what all this is gonna cost either....

In case you need the details anytime Annette, the practice is Dr Alex Rosenwax & Associates, Shop 3, Block D, 1 Hunter St., Waterloo, Sydney. Tel 02 9319 6111, contact@birdvet.com.au - I got referred by another practice so I'm guessing its well thought of; they seem nice anyway. I'll let you know what happens if we go ahead with this.

Incidentally he does spend all his time on the bottom on his side. Kind of makes him a sitting duck for parasites and bacteria but up till now he's been ok. In the old tank we didn't clean the gravel too much. This was partly because the small size of the tank made us think a good portion of the biological filter was probably in the gravel; also when we did clean it it sometimes made quite a change to the water quality of the tank (made it quite acid). This kind of scared us off messing with it too much. Now we have a decent sized tank with a large filter we're quite thorough with the gravel cleaning. Still a bit worried about parasites tho since I did see some crawlies in there when the tank was initially set up (before fish went in). I saw some small white dots that had a flicking movement, also a small leach like thing. These were on a piece of bog wood so I took it out and soaked it in boiling water for a while. Didn't see them again after that but they may have been elsewhere. This is partly why we had the salt level quite high for a while.

Thanks again for everyones comments. Think we've got a good idea what we should be doing. Will keep fingers crossed.

Better get on with it anyhow...

Cheers,

Iain (& Helen)

PS When we went away for a few days recently there was a lady next door to where we were staying who was nursing Possums, Magpies and a baby Kangaroo. Feel like I'm living in an episode of Animal hospital. I'll post a pic next time.

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Look forward to seeing the pic. lol

Thanks for the information on the vet, I hope I never have to use it, it's so stressful transporting a fish when they are sick. Good luck with your treatment. I'm amazed your fish has lasted on the bottom with dropsy symptoms for so long, it's a good sign that he will respond well to TS as it can't be too virilent strain a of bacteria.

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Guest Halloween

My Pearlie Eliza used to get those once and a while (but never that many, poor fish!!). They would grow and grow and then burst. Other than a strange oily substance at the surface ofn the water there were no problems... Sometimes the same 'bubble' would refill. It looks itchy, I hope you find something to help it!!! All I know is that dropsy is when a fish can't get rid of the fluids in it's body thus the pineconing, these strange blisters filling up with liquid seems somehow connected to not being able to expell extra fluid. I really don't know anything about it but since epsom salt can help dropsy fish maybe it could help yours???

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