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Ill Fantail Has Black Spot On Tail, Disoriented Swimming

Guest ampearlman

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Guest ampearlman

Hi -

I have a Fantail that is clearly ill. The fish is about 3 years old, about 4-5 inches, and typically very active. Today I noticed the fish swimming very lazily. I also noticed a small black spot on its tail fin. The spot appears to be a discoloration, not a growth.

Twice in the past, the fish has had similar symptoms. The first time, the spot was on the mouth. I went to a local pet store and an employee told me it sounded like a bacterial infection and they recommended I treat with Melafix (antibacterial extract of Tea Tree). I did this and the fish got better. The second time the spot was on the tail. Again, I treated with Melafix and the fish improved.

I picked up a new bottle of Melafix this morning after noticing the ill fish. When I got home the fish was up-side-down but straightened up when I got near. I treated the entire tank as directed a few hours ago. No change so far, still very lethargic, and swimming poorly.

Tank setup: 3 years old, 55 gal, outdoor "pond," 6 fish, good filtration, good aeration, direct sun later in afternoon so some algea growth (I did recently add Tetra Pond algea control to reduce algea sticking to sides of pond, but in general the water is very clear.) There is a new fish in the tank (1 inch Fantail). It was added about 2 weeks ago from a tank that appeared healthy from a place I trust. (Yes, I recognize the tank maybe overcrowded but it has excellent filtration and surface area.)

I recently posted about a Ryukin showing some signs of stress which appeared to be from Nitrates. I have increased my regular water changes and brought down the Nitrates (and will continue to do so - thanks).

The only similar symptoms I can find online indicate ammonia burns, but I have found zero ammonia in tests. I will post a picture when I am able... the camera is charging.

1 - Does this sound bacterial?

2 - Can Melafix hurt helpful filter bacteria?

3 - Should I set up a hospital tank?

Thanks in advance.

- Adam

Ammonia: 0

Nitrite: 0

Nitrate: ~20 ppm

ph: 7.2

Test kit: Jungle 6 in 1 strip, Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Ammonia Test Kit (drops)

Tank Size: 55-60 gal

Filter: Fluval 305

Water change: 10-15 gals weekly

Fish: 6, including this one (2 Fantails 4-5 inches & 1 inch, 2 Ryukin 4-5 inches, 2 Oranda 2-3 inches)

Conditioner: API Stress Coat with every water addition/change

Medications: Melafix

New Fish: 1 (small fantail)

Food: TetraFin Goldfish Flakes (seems like I should vary diet more, include more fiber/veggies)

Unusual Findings: black spot on tail fin, maybe a slight darker discoloration on head (maybe my imagination)

Unusual Behavior: very lethargic, disoriented

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  • Regular Member

HI! I remember your last thread. I am glad to see you've upped the water changes as suggested and gotten the nitrates lower.. : )

You are right in that ammonia burns can cause black marks. They usually show up AFTER a fish has begun to heal, so just because you are seeing them now, doesn't mean that it was caused by a recent ammonia spike.. I was recently told that medications can also burn, and cause a black discoloration. However, with the odd lethargic behavior, it does sound like something else is going on here.

Now, the new fish you've brought in. You say it was two weeks ago from a place you trust. Did you just add the fish directly to the pond? Just because a fish appears to be healthy does not mean it couldn't be carrying something, which then spread to your other fish. Normally we recommend quarentining ALL new fish for at least 2 weeks, if not more. (I do 30 days). During that time I treat the fish with 0.3% salt, and also use a medication called PraziPro.. You can order that online at GoldfishConnection.com. Most fish from ALL stores carry something called flukes. They are known to cause bottom sitting & lethargy. The PraziPro will treat those, and is a very safe medication. At this point, if you did not treat the new fish for flukes and added it straight to the pond, you will need to treat the whole pond.

The last few times the fish showed the blark marks, was it behaving oddly then as well?

That is all I have to add at this point. Hopefully a moderator or other member will be along soon with more ideas & recommendations. And to answer your three questions : )

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  • Regular Member

Hello ampearlman!

Sue is right on the money with what she has told you. If you know you are overstocked you must be very cautious with your water changes and very diligent. Once weekly is not going to be enough to keep your water parameters safe especially only 10-15 gallons. It would be better to do a very large wc (50-75%) once weekly and small changes every other day. I know this sounds like a lot, but when you are overstocked that is what is necessary to keep your ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates down to a safe level for your fish.

It really sounds like flukes, not a bacterial problem as yet, but gill flukes can be deadly if you don't get rid of them. It doesn't matter how well you trust your lfs, they cannot quarantine new fish as they have too many, and its all about sales. Its up to us as fish "parents" to protect our home fish from the parasites that the new fish will bring with them.

Since the fish has already been added to the pond, it won't be necessary to qt him. If the new fish brought flukes in, then you must assume that all the fish in the pond have a chance of having them.

All medications with the exception of Prazipro and salt as Sue suggested have the potential to mess with your cycle. Fortunately Prazi is the only medication that will kill flukes if you use it as directed.

The black spots, as Sue also told you, are from the HEALING of the ammonia burns. Think of them as scabs. Your fish must be kept in pristine water for him to heal, and the pond dosed with Prazi to get rid of the flukes.

Good luck and let us know how it goes! :) Be sure to come back and ask any questions you need to ask. If we don't know the answer, we'll find someone who does.

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Guest ampearlman

It has been a few hours. The fantail has not improved, but is still alive.

The other fish are showing no signs of illness. My plan is to continue the Melafix treatments since I have had success with it in the past for similar symptoms for this fish. To answer your question, Sue, the fish did exhibit some poor swimming behavior last time, but not nearly this bad. Do you think I should discontinue the Melafix and switch to Prazi? (Obviously over-medicating is a concern.)

Would you recommend the .3% salt treatment as well?



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  • Regular Member

What does the black mark look like? Is there any chance of a picture? If its a deep red-black its possible the high nitrates in the past that you mention caused it. Low nitrates for an extended period will have it disappear.

However, if its a smudge and definitely deep black or dark grey, it could be a burn from not only ammonia but any kind of medication including the algae control you added. Algae control products can damage fishes slimecoat.

Did you also add the algae control liquid on the previous occasions that your fish had a reaction like this? Some fish are more sensitive than others to anything at all new in their water.

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Guest ampearlman

Morning here. The fish is still alive, but not doing well. Very disoriented, spends most of its time up-side-down and still. Labored breathing. It did righten up when I went to the tank but only briefly.

I tried to take a couple photos but between the fish's positioning and the fact that I have to take the picture from the top (since it's a pond) I really couldn't get any detail of the spot. I could position the fish by hand, but at this point I'm afraid even that would kill it. I'll try to get a picture again later.

The black mark appears in two small places on the edge of a tail fin. I think the spot is "deep black" versus gray or red-black (but the fish is orange so it's hard to tell). The shape/structure of the fin seems fine, no rot or tearing.

I can definitely say that the first time the black spot symptom was shown it was not due to any algae products as that was shortly after cycling (and I have to assume that was an ammonia burn). Unfortunately, I do not have records of when I added the algae product in the past versus when the fish was medicated. Good lesson to keep a journal...

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Guest ampearlman

Home from work. The fish is still alive. The condition is pretty much the same.

Not sure how I feel. On one hand, I'm hopeful that it might recover, but on the other hand I hope it isn't suffering needlessly.

I am bringing the salt up to .3% and continuing the Melafix. I will look for Prazi this evening.

Does anyone have an opinion if I should continue the Melafix, switch to Prazi, or can I use both?

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Guest ampearlman

The fish died this while I was at work. I have included a couple of photos of the black marks on the tail. If anyone has any ideas what they are please let me know. Thanks for your help.







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  • Regular Member

Oh I am so sorry!! My internet was out for about 2 days and I had NO way to get onto koko's!!!

I am not the best in the diagnosis department, so I really can't offer anything than you already know & guesses. We are a bit short of moderators and good experienced members right now, it's been a crazy busy time for everyone. But I am sure one of the mods can check in on this thread at some point and let you know more info.

I do see what koko is saying about the dropsy/bloating. I want to to say that the black marks do look like some sort of ammonia burns or wounds that were healing. Usually black is a sign of a previous problem which is getting better, but again, that's just my guess.

I don't know if this will make you feel better, or worse, but if it was dropsy, neither the melafix OR the prazi was going to help.. Nor the 0.3% salt (actually in that case, the salt would have caused more bloating). Dropsy is tricky. It's still uncertain what exactly is the cause.. And it's one of the things that are most difficult to treat. It typically is first noticeable when a fish looks bloated. Sometimes the eyes will start to protrude, and then the scales will begin to stick out like a pinecone. Right now the best medication for it seems to be medicated food called MetroMeds from goldfish connection, along with epsom salt, and sometimes Maracyn Two (especially if you can't get the Metromeds).. We were focusing on the black marks, which most likely was not the main cause of problems here.

Now the good news is, dropsy is not neccessarily contagious. Many cases, one fish will experience it, and the others are fine.. How are the other fish? At this point, if they all appear normal, I would suggest a few large water changes, to get all of the medications out. You can also replace the carbon in your filter which will remove the extra meds. I think fresh clean water is the way to go right now with your remaining fish (unless of course they are exhibiting signs of illness. If they are, let us know).

So sorry you lost him : (

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I agree. The focus shouldn't have been on the black marks on the tail, but on the bloating and pineconing of the body. Clearly, dropsy. And as Sue said, hard to treat. When a fish is sick, yes, the sickness needs to be treated, but attention also needs to be focused on what caused the sickness, which is pretty much always unhealthy water.

Large water changes are about more than keeping down the ammonia. They are also about getting rid of bad bacteria that will eventually always grow in your tank. Unless you inspect your water under a microscope, you will not be able to test for bad bacteria. That is why weekly water changes of at least 50% are recommended with a once a month 100% water change. You will create a more healthy environment this way.

You mentioned test strips and drops. Even if it means losing a little money, throw away the strips in favor of the drops. In the long run, investing in drops will save you money. Drops will give you more accurate readings so that you will know better the health of your tank which will cause less disease which will mean needing to buy less medications. It will also mean less loss of fish which is also loss of money. Beginning treatments early, and opting for salt instead of chemical medications is also a better place to start. Being able to diagnose symptoms is also crucial. Although salt is an excellent treatment for most diseases/illnesses, if you see bloating, swelling, eye protrusion or pineconing, salt will only make these problems worse and, instead, you need to use epsom salt. So, as I said, learning to diagnose symptoms will help immensely.

Also as said, an extremely large water change, 90%-100%, is required to get out all the meds. Get the water clean and healthy.

Now that you are back down to a more appropriate stocking level, no more new fish.

Get that treatment of salt and prazi, as suggested, going for the rest of your fish and keep your eye out for any physical or physiological changes in your fish and let us know if you see any.

Very sorry about your fantail. :tou

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