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Clownfish Trouble


Acupunk

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I have a new fish only with live rock salt water set up. It is a 20 gallon long tank with an Emperor 280 filter. The tank has been running for about six weeks and was cycled with uncured live rock and two damsel fish. Ammonia and nitrite have been at zero for over three weeks and nitrate is less than 10. My hydrometer reads 1.021.

I purchased a pair of ocellaris clownfish yesterday (they were exchanged at the store for the damsels, so they are the only fish in the tank now). When I bought the fish, one of them had a small (less than a millimeter) white area above and behind the eye. It was slightly raised and looked like a scratch. I was told it was shipping damage and that it would heal quickly.

I took them home and acclimated them to my tank water over the course of an hour (gradual addition of water to their large bag). When they were transferred to the tank they seemed to spend most of the evening hanging out near the surface. I was not sure if this was normal behavior or not. I left the light off and tried to give them their peace.

Today when I got home from work, the "scratch" had extended back all along the fishes' lateral line and a similar mark has appeared on the other side. The other fishes' lateral line appears to be raised, but is not as white. The first fish now has some red areas along the edges of his pectoral fins.

My questions are:

  • What am I dealing with?
  • Is it treatable?
  • What next?

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It's probably no longer treatable if that spread as fast as you had said... By the way, i noticed you didn't mention quarantining your new clowns. That should always be an indispensable procedure when purchasing marine fish.

The fish might have healed faster if you performed what is known as a "hyposalinity" treatment in which the salt content the water is lowered to almost 50% over a course of several hours. Salinity that low is easily tolerated by fish if it was gradually implemented (by drip-tube transfer of fresh water and likewise removing the same volume of saltwater) in the quarantine tank but saltwater parasites and harmful microorganisms perish almost instantly)

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Thanks for your reply. The fish weren't quarantined because they are the only fish in a new tank.

Not knowing what to do (before your reply) I gave the fish a 3 minute freshwater bath. They look somewhat improved, or at least they aren't getting worse.

What do you think that the diagnosis is?

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Mmm... might be that the fish got itself scratched on an object which had Mycobacterium on its surface... That said, if it had progressed far into the bloodstream... well, maybe you could try a half-strength dosage of Melafix? 3 minutes in freshwater is probably not enough to kill the infection as hyposalinity is supposed to be conducted for a period of at least two weeks...

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Man Yu was right -- both my clownfish died overnight. :( I am totally at a loss as to what happened -- they got sick so fast. They lasted just over 24 hours. In the end they were pale, with raised lateral lines, hanging at the surface, and breathing very quickly.

I want to try and figure out if they had a disease or if there is something wrong with my water. Parameters are good -- ammonia and nitrite zero, nitrate about 5, pH 8.2. Hydrometer says 1.021. The damsel fish that I used to cycle the tank were perfectly happy in the water.

I am beginning to wonder if I should have branched out into saltwater... I feel as ignorant and frustrated now as I did when I started out with goldfish. Any advice?

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You mentioned it was along the lateral line on both sides? There is a condition called head and lateral line erosion which some saltwater fish do get, but it's usually tangs that are most prone to it. And it usually has to do with dietary deficiency.Another marine disease I've dealt with is velvet, which travels so quickly it can kill a fish the same day it is first noticed. It looks like a dusting of gold specks on the fish. It is very hard to see without a flashlight.Clowns are usually pretty tough, but I have seen ocellaris crash soon after receiving them into the store. Marine fish are often highly stressed at the store. It sounds like the fish were very new to the store, since the one had shipping damage that was still showing. THe combination of being wild caught, shipped around the world and moved between wholesalers' tanks and your home tank just took its toll on them.I am sorry you lost them. Make sure you buy from a very reputable saltwater store, not "bargain" chain pet stores.One other thought Acu, what's the pH of your tank??

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You mentioned it was along the lateral line on both sides? There is a condition called head and lateral line erosion which some saltwater fish do get, but it's usually tangs that are most prone to it. And it usually has to do with dietary deficiency.Another marine disease I've dealt with is velvet, which travels so quickly it can kill a fish the same day it is first noticed. It looks like a dusting of gold specks on the fish. It is very hard to see without a flashlight.Clowns are usually pretty tough, but I have seen ocellaris crash soon after receiving them into the store. Marine fish are often highly stressed at the store. It sounds like the fish were very new to the store, since the one had shipping damage that was still showing. THe combination of being wild caught, shipped around the world and moved between wholesalers' tanks and your home tank just took its toll on them.I am sorry you lost them. Make sure you buy from a very reputable saltwater store, not "bargain" chain pet stores.One other thought Acu, what's the pH of your tank??

I didn't see any gold specks on the fish, but I didn't look with a flashlight. I read some about lateral line disease, but would a condition like that develop and kill a fish so fast? I do not know whether these particular fish were tank raised or not. One way or another, they arrived at the store the day I bought them (you have to purchase right away in order to get the good stuff at this particular store). The store I bought them from is the only Mom and Pop LFS in my area, the only other choices are big box stores.

My pH is 8.2.

One thing that I have considered -- I did not use reverse osmosis water. I used tap water conditioned with Prime. The KH of my tap water is very high -- over 350. Could this have caused the problem?

Thanks for your help.

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It's possible the high kH could have shocked them, but I would say it was more due to the stress of getting them the day they arrived. At our store we'd usually recommend giving new fish a week or two in the store to make sure they destress and acclimate okay. It's unfortunate that you have to buy them the first day in ordedr to get a good selection. I wouldn't recommend it, just because they aren't too likely to make it.

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