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Fin Rot?


fredct

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So our lovely little Fishie - a comet in a 20 gallon tank - with his digestive problems and his bad reactions with every medicated-food on known to fish-kind, appears to have a bit of fin rot on his anal fin, I think? He has a small circle 'bite' out of his fin with some black around the edges near it. I'd noticed the black before (but often thought it was just the way the light hit it momentarily) but never until tonight had I noticed the 'bite'. Its not frayed like some descriptions, but rather an even circle. I think it might be in where his fin goes in naturally a bit anyway, but it doesn't look like the other areas.

For those not familar with me and my fish, our water is very good - nitrate typically below 5 ppm, ammonia & nitrite zero. pH typically around 7.8. Water changes are accompanied by amquel+ and novaqua+, along with a small amount of salt, because we've found in his old age (he's 11+ years old, btw) it helps him with his balance.

Does what I describe sound like fin rot? The other explanation for the black is perhaps a torn fin healing, but the small missing circle implies fin rot to me - but I've never dealt with it before.

Is there any chance the black edge means its healing? Most descriptions including Koko's own describe it as a white edge, and some sources mention black edges are a sign of something healing, like a torn fin.

Looking online, most suggested treatments seem to be good water quality (check - and I'll probably do a nice big water change sometime this week), salt (I can certainly up it and probably plan on doing so, pending some responses here), or certain medications (are there any waterborne ones to recommend since he's had such problems with medicated food?).

For now I'll keep a close eye on him. Thanks everyone!

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Did a bit more searching this morning and it seems the main choices are Maracyn, Maracyn-Plus, or Maracyn-Two. Should I consider medicating? or just salting and keeping an eye out for now? If medication, what's the difference between those and is any preferred? Or something else? DrsF&S lists a few other choices as well: http://www.drsfostersmith.com/pic/article.cfm?aid=762

He looked fine this morning (behavior-wise) and no worse as best as I could tell.

Edited by fredct
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Come now... I know someone here can give me fin rot advice... for now I've just salted and upped it from our normal 0.05% or so level up to 0.15% and plan to continue increasing for the next day or so up to a full, medicinal 0.3% - I'm even considering a little bit higher since we normally keep a low level of salt, so long as he doesn't show any adverse reaction. I'll also keep up with some big water changes to make sure his water is crystal clean.

That's my plan for now, unless the symptoms seem to accelerate or get worse - at which case I'll probably run out and by some version of Maracyn (still have no idea what the difference is between them).

His behavior is still completely normal.

Please let me know if you approve or disapprove of this plan. Or have any specific medication to recommend should it get worse.

Edited by fredct
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Hello Fred and I apologise no-one has seen your thread. Many of the Mods and helpers are away at the moment for one reason or another. I myself totally din't see this till now.

First of all - the completely circular hole. Like a bite or a hole punched pinprick hole? These kind of holes are indicative of ammonia. The acid in the ammonia burns a circle in fins. I have seen it in my own fish after a cycle bump and I have seen them many times here in diagnosis when people are cycling.

The black rim of the hole is also I suspect ammonia burn. the melanaphore migration of pigment cells acting erroneously to produce blackened color epithelial cells.

Could anything at all have contributed to an ammonia spike that went un-noticed?

This is not finrot. I strongly recommend you do not use Maracyn which should only be used in very extreme cases of finrot anyway IMO.

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Trinket, no problem, it is the summer afterall. Thanks for your response.

To clarify... its like a bite, not a pin-hole. Its at the edge of the fin as if it been 'eaten away' at a little bit (it'd say its about a third to half a centimeter radius or so - not huge but definitely something). So its really a half-circle, not a full one. I know that black edges are also associated with healing of a torn fin - I've read that in several places - but I know its an ammonia symptom too.

Question1: Does that still sound like ammonia burn? Or what?

I ran our ammonia test and came out with zero on Sunday night after a water change. Ditto with nitrite. I'll do it again when I get home since I haven't done a water change since then.

As far as the potential for an ammonia spike, well, I can't rule it out as I don't do water test more than every week or two. So its not like I have daily numbers. The only differences I can think of recently are:

- I used some phoszorb for a little while to get rid of a modest waterborne algae bloom we had - I couldn't use it for a long time, because the packet doesn't fit in our filter., but I had it partially in for a couple days.

- I've occassionally been adding some buff-it-up. That only started recently.

- We were out of town for 3.5 days recently, so there were no water changes in that time. But in a cycled tank that shouldn't cause an ammonia issue I'd hope.

Question2: I'll watch our measurement closer for a while, but does anything ring a bell with you as far as being a risk to the cycle?

Question3: Should I continue with the salt treatment? Its currently up to about 0.25% and I was gonna give it one more bump up tonight.

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To clarify... its like a bite, not a pin-hole. Its at the edge of the fin as if it been 'eaten away' at a little bit Question1: Does that still sound like ammonia burn? Or what?

I ran our ammonia test and came out with zero on Sunday night after a water change. - .

Question2: I'll watch our measurement closer for a while, but does anything ring a bell with you as far as being a risk to the cycle?

Question3: Should I continue with the salt treatment? Its currently up to about 0.25% and I was gonna give it one more bump up tonight.

So I want to comment on these things above.

Q1: First, no its beginning to sound like something else here, maybe stress related finrot yes -perhaps not ammonia..You should however try to do ammonia checks before water changes because small spikes will not show up after/are resolved by a water change.

Q2: The phoszorb in itself should be okay for so short a time, I think they can release back into the tank. A cheaper way to clear phosphates and reduce brown algae I think is to keep nitrates very low. Nitrates are also acidic and can also at high levels cause a lot of stress, they can also precipitate pH swings- the Buff it Up is good..I assume nitrates have not been an issue.

Q3: I am worried about the salt. The blackening may be a reaction to the increase in salt or to salt exposure over a long period of time. I have had a white fish turn entirely grey/black when I salted to 0.3%!!!

You may do better with a large water change - a complete salt break - and some melafix here.

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I'll do ammonia and nitrite tests (and the rest of them) when I get home. The one additional thing I forget to mention is the only other possibility is that the ammonia test is old. Maybe I'll pick up a new one, just in case.

Nitrates have not been a problem. They are 5 ppm or even less depending on the frequency of water changes lately.

Worried about the salt? < sigh > I thought it was a healer!! Note that this has started with a low level of salt (0.05% or so), not anything like high, treatment level. I feel conflicted on this. On one hand I was relying on the salt to help, but I don't want it to hurt either - I had never heard of that. Not only that, but without salt he often has more balance problems, but I guess I'll see how it goes.

You say the blackness may be caused by the salt, but that wouldn't cause the fin-rot-ish thing, would it?

So you'd suggest eliminating the salt over the next couple days and using Melafix instead?

Finally, our carbon in the filter is currently at least 3 or 4 weeks old. Should we eliminate it before using the Melafix?

Edited by fredct
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No, no, the salt at low levels is fine! I know your fishy does well with 0.1% salt with his floaty issues. But there's a difference when the salt is raised any higher. It's the difference between a tonic dose (0.1%) and a medicinal dose (above 0.1%). And any medicinal dosages of anything in a fishes water have the capacity to cause a reaction with some fish. It can stress fish as it rises and thats one stress factor, add another 2 or 3 stress factors and you get finrot.

I still think you can keep the salt at 0.1% for him.

Carbon capacity gets used up and also can release back ammonia and toxins into the tank. Yes, I would change it. Do you have other filter media? Ceramic hoops and sponge? If so, you can remove it when using melafix. Do you have any?

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Thanks so much trinket.

Ah okay, back to the normal level of salt. Gotcha. You said "a complete salt break" above, but I guess I took it too literally!

Please keep in mind though that I did not start these higher levels of salt (anything above 0.05% or so) until *after* I noticed this fit-rot with the black edge on Sunday night. So if the salt's doing it, it was doing it at a low level. Still though, if you feel that Melafix is a better approach than medicinal levels of salt, I'll gladly go that route.

I don't have any bio-balls or anything, but one of the filters has a block of that black-stringed plastic-mesh stuff. And of course I'd keep the mechanical filtration cartridge in there even if it doesn't have the carbon in it, so that provides surface area too. I've never seen a bump in the cycle when changing the carbon so I think most of our cycle bacteria probably mostly live on the walls of the filter, but I'll watch closely. I could throw in some mesh bags (with nothing in them) into the back of the filter to provide more surface area.

Finally, I see that this article says that ragged rot is usually bacterial while even rot is more likely fungal:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fin_rot

According to the product descriptions, Melafix is more for bacteria while Pimafix treats fungal issues as well. Since this rot is a mostly-even circle, should I go with the pimafix instead maybe? Both? (it says they can work together) Or is wiki wrong?

Edited by fredct
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Oh yes I did say "complete salt break" :hmm From that higher level then I mean..

The thing about finrot that determines treatment is progression. How fast is it progressing? If its no worse, no better it may just be a case of reducing stressors, feeding good foods and plenty of vitamin C. Light salt. Rot that is spreading warrants treatment. If the spread is slow, Melafix is a mild one to start. If it doesn't work there are stronger meds...although wiki has some useful info it also contains some untruths and some dubious info. I have never used Pimafix so cannot comment on its efficiency but finrot is seldom fungal and almost always bacterial to the best of my knowledge. True fungus is a raised spore like hairy growth (under the scope) that looks like spots on the fish. Also- careful with descriptions of disease without pics, language people use and descriptions of the same thing can vary so much.

Your filter could hold more media couldn't it? How much space do you have? Porous material like bioballs are quite small and can be laid along the base of the filter box and are the most bb friendly. You could even fill the meshbags with them.

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As best as I can tell its currently a no-better-no-worse situation. It *may* be spreading very slowly or maybe not - in the last 36 hours I can't be sure which at least means its not moving quickly.

I found some sources talking about fungal fin rot, but I don't see any visible fungus.

I'll start cutting down on the salt and using Melafix tonight.

I'll have my girlfriend pick up some bioballs today too if the store has them. There's not a lot of room (they're just HOB filters), but there's some.

P.S. I'll try to get a picture of the fin tonight too.

Edited by fredct
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You'd be surprised how effective the bioballs are at holding your cycle. I didn't use them for years but always make sure now I have a whole filter space full of them in each tank. They are easy to clean too. Just swill them in a bucket of tank water- put back and your done. I have had HOB filters and added them in mesh down the back of the carbon. Even a few will help. Make sure of course the water is still passing through at a good flowrate.

Waiting for the pic :)

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Two days after a water change, the new ammonia test kit also registers 0. Ran nitrite again too (that test kit isn't as old so didn't get a new one) and still zero.

We got the Fluval Biomax 'rings' (http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?pcatid=15433), and I put 10 of them in a little 3"x4" mesh bag I have and in the back of the filter. Any more in the bag and it probably would've gotten too bulky to fit. I could put more in a second bag, but I don't want to disturb the water flow and, as I said, I havent seen any cycle bumps even when entirely switching out the filter cartidges (including carbon), so I'm not too worried about that (but will test). At the least its a nice security blanket.

I couldn't get a great picture of the fin, not well focused, as the camera doesn't seem to focus well enough when its that close, but I got some from further away that at least show the shape of the missing part.

The first one is further away, but sharper - look at the bottom of his anal fin, you can distinctly see the little cut out semi-circle:

http://mysite.verizon.net/fredct/IMG_5358.jpg

The second is a bit fuzzier, but closer in. Again, you can see the missing portion:

http://mysite.verizon.net/fredct/IMG_5365.jpg

You'll have to trust me that there's a thin line of black around the missing area, most prominently at the lower-front edge.

Next, I did a ~30% water change with salt-less water, bringing it down to 0.15%, and I'll do another tomorrow to continue bringing it down, eventually back to his mild level of 0.05% or so (I do 1.5-2 tsp for every 2.5 gallons of water).

And finally, I just added half a dose of melafix 5 minutes ago to no adverse reaction. I'll add the other half dose in a few minutes, with anything new I like to add it slowly and make sure there are no issues.

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I can see it. It's a split that happens to look like a bite. I've seen fins where this goes all around so the fins actually look like they are frilled.

I can also see the black rim and that is certainly a healing sign.( Unless its actually dark red/blood color.)

You are doing everything I would do for him for the moment. Is he eating well? No unusual behavior still?

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Thanks Trinket. You're a big comfort and a huge help as always!

From what you can see, do you have an opinion on the cause? Are we talking fin rot/bacterial or just getting torn by something? Or is there no way to know for sure yet (or at least not by the pictures)?

I took a closer look and I believe its black, not blood red - he's an excitable guy so its hard to get a great look, but I see nothing that says red to me. And that may answer your other question... his behavior is distinctly normal and happy and his appetite is large as always :) .

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Since it is the only symptom- and by that I mean he is behaving within his usual range of normal- then it is probably just simple early stage finrot/finsplits brought on by a combination of stress factors which are not always immediately fathomable. Since the area is not red it has not I think been infected with bacteria (bacterial finrot) yet.

Bacterial finrot will have one of 3 features. Either it will be red or show slight pink at the edges, or it will progress fast (rapid finloss) or it will accompany bottom sitting or other abnormal behavior.

Since your fishes finrot is showing signs of healing (the black) and is not progressing or showing any red then you should start with light salt and melafix. Melafix is not really suitable once the fins are infected with bacteria but it does a reasonable job of healing very superficial breaks and tears.

Is there anything in the tank that could have caused a tear/split fin?

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Is there anything in the tank that could have caused a tear/split fin?

Not much. There are two little columns and a little statue, then there's river rocks, an internal filter, the tube from a HOB filter, and an air stone. The most likely of those is maybe a slim chance of him getting a fin caught in the suction from one of the filters. They shouldn't be that strong, but I guess anything's possible. Or just a hard whack against the corner of a column started a tear, which was finished off by a filter? I dunno, we *were* away from a long weekend, so who knows what kinda trouble he might've gotten into ;) . Physical damage seems unlikely, but I know he has lost a scale now and again, so it happens.

I'll continue treating with the melafix and keep a close eye.

Just a question so I can be prepared... if it does start to develop any of those signs, or otherwise gets worse, what would the next step be? Alternately, if it continues to look the same after the 7 days of Melafix treatment, what would be the next move, if anything?

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Arggg... is Melafix known to have any sedative properties? When I put some in last night, he got kinda quiet, but as far as I know he was just tired, although I did notice he was kinda moving his body more than usual while sleeping.

Today when we got home from work, he seemed a bit slow, but a little bit of coaxing and a pea seemed to get him back to normal. A partial water change woke him up more, which I just assumed was because of all the activity from the change. But then again tonight, not 5 minutes after putting in half a dose of melafix (was gonna do the rest soon after), he got pretty quiet and sleepy, but not in an entirely normal way - not entirely sleeping, he's still 'waging' his body as if he wants to move around. Man, this guy just seems to not want any kind of medication... even mild herbal varieties?!?

Btw, the fin itself still seems the same to me, no progression or other bad signs.

Edited by fredct
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After about an hour of sleeping, he's moving around more now. He's still seems a bit drowsy, but he's picking at the rocks now again which is a normal behavior. Perhaps I overreact, but the behavior still seemed a bit odd to me, plus the timing of it was awful close to the Melafix dose two nights in a row.

Edited by fredct
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It is possible for melafix to subdue him for a moment as it enters the water column certainly but prolonged lethargy might mean something else. Hopefully he is his usual self again when you post back.

As for the ornaments and filter suction you can run a test. Get some stocking hose from your gf and immerse it in the tank and "swim" it around the ornaments touching everything in there lightly much as your fish would in a normal swimming day. Then take out the hose and see if there are any new snags at all. Even a slight tear or snag in the hose is telling you something is too sharp for your fish in there. The filter should also not suck up the hose as you "swim" it past.

The only other thing recommended for early stage fin splits is a topical application of iodine/hp. But since your fish seems to be healing the tear himself (the black pigmentation) + its not getting worse I dont recommend this- because topical applications also wipe out all the good healing phagocytic cells.

You should stop adding the melafix if you see continued lethargy.

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He still seems a bit subdued this morning. I did a small (10-15%) water changed, which is the most I have time for before work (well, I don't even have time or that, but I can be a bit late). In the morning he usually greets you by swimming back and forth, and coming right over to you wanting food, food, food. But today he's distinctly quieter and hanging out in the corner, only coming over with some coaxing. He's more active since the water change I think, but it still seems a bit lethargic.

So, assuming that's a no go on the melafix, should I just watch him and make sure he looks like he's healing?

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How is he now? Can you get a close look at the split fin and see if there's been any repair yet? Anything different looking?

Are we sure this was a reaction to the melafix or do you think he is getting more lethargic on account of present problems?

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Thanks for checking in Trinket. I've wondered that myself. I can't think of any way to be sure, but both nights he got distinctly sleepier right after the melafix was added. It wasn't like a slow change, but rather a sudden one, both nights. He had had the fin damage for at least a couple days before that (probably more) and never acted like that - was never unresponsive or lethargic until right after I added the first melafix, and worse after the second dose.

He's less lethargic last night and today than he was before. Not back to his totally normal self, but less lethargic and more responsive. I've done a couple small water changes and by my calculations there's about a dose of melafix still in the water (unless it wears off on its own?). I can still smell it when I open the top of the tank (it has a rather strong shampoo-y smell).

I still don't see any particular change in the fin, either positive or negative. I've made a mental note of where the cut-out semi-circle starts and stops in relation to the 'veins' in the fin, so I can get a better sense of any changes going forward. How long would any healing/regeneration be expected to take? Days? Weeks? Months? Especially in an older fish?

The one other oddish thing is for the last day or so he's been 'sinky' - meaning when he sleeps or otherwise stops swimming he slowly drifts downwards. As I've described in the past at some point, he doesn't 'like' this, and every once in a while will dart up to the surface and 'jump' a little. Even some foods that have tended to make him floaty in the past haven't done so is the past day. Which is kinda good, except for his little jumpy reactions. I've tested the water and its fine same as always (amm 0/nit 0/nat <5/pH 7.4-7.6/KH 80ppm), so it shouldn't be a water quality issue, and the jump always happens when he's sinky.

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Improving in activity this afternoon and evening. I feel like he may be resting a bit more often, but when he's awake, his moving around pretty normally. He also seems to have adjusted to being sinky, although he's only mildly so - hasn't been jumpy in several hours. His resting has also occurred more near the bottom of the tank (not on it, just a few inches above it), which is unusual for him, but from what I've read on here and seen of other fish, possibly more 'normal' than his usual behavior.

I see nothing to be concerned about at this moment, and will continue to keep a close eye on his fin, which remains no better no worse.

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OK - I think theres's nothing much else at this point that can be done. Any change at all let us know :)

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