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Guest Gemelli

Fish Unable To Open Mouth

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Guest Gemelli

Hi,

I am new here and very inexperienced at fishkeeping. My sons won two goldfish at a festival this July (unbeknownst to me at the time!). Believe it or not, one is still alive after surviving those less than ideal conditions. After the other passed we replaced him with a twelve cent feeder fish. They have both been alive and well until about four days ago. The twelve cent, and larger of the two (about 2" long to the tail), has had his mouth firmly clamped shut for days. He also shows signs of fin deterioration. The other fish seems perfectly fine. After doing some research I learned that their mouths can fuse shut. I removed him from the tank and was easily able to completely open his mouth however, he immediately shut it again. Twice at feeding time he has risen to the top and poked at the food without opening his mouth. After doing that a few times he quickly swam to the bottom slamming his head into the gravel as if out of frustration.

The water condition did deteriorate some over the thanksgiving holiday but this did not seem to effect the smaller fish. The water has been cleaned and treated with Tank Buddies Fungus Clear (recommendation of nnnn employee). Other than the fin condition there are no other fungus, growths, deformities etc.

Please help! I feel so bad that he wants to eat but can't and so does my 8-1/2 year old son who is, :cry1 .

Thanks,

GEM

P.S.- Forgot to add that he has also had strange looking feces. The first time we saw it we thought it was a hair stuck to him. It's clear, string like. Thx.

Edited by Gemelli

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Im so sorry about your fish! Let's see what we can do.

I am thinking the main problem here is going to be toxins in the water combined with medication. Its not a good combination. The meds may or may not be the right ones but they will not work in a tank that is in the throes of what we call a cycle crash which is exactly what causes these symptoms initially. This has to be corrected first- before meds are added and usually involves a daily water change for some weeks to re-establish the good bacteria.

Do you have any info on your tank at all? Size? Water stats? There is a box above we ask people to fill in as much as they can. Just copy and paste the box and add as many answers as you can. It helps us get a better pic of things generally.

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I had typed up a long post, and Trinket beat me to it! Just as well, she is much more knowledgeable than me! Your fish are in good hands!

Edited by ryukin girl

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Guest Gemelli

Hi,

I saw that but don't have a whole lot of additional information. The tank is I believe 10 gallons? It is approximately 2ft long and 1-1-1/2 ft high. I do not know the water temperature or any of the details on the water condition. There are two small fish. One well, one unwell. There are no other additives other than what I already mentioned. I removed both fish and totally emptied and cleaned it along with all of the gravel. Everything was fully rinsed in dechlorinated water. The fish is actively swimming in a normal manner. The only thing that seems amiss is the closed mouth and the frayed fins.

Thanks for your quick reply!!!!

Oh...also...why is it shut? What keeps it shut? Can he survive and get better to open his mouth again? I feel horrible.

Edited by Gemelli

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First of all please don't feel horrible..we have all been here and know exactly how helpless it makes a person feel.

If the head banging is for purposes of rubbing/scratching his mouth only- this is a very typical feature of mouth rot/clamp. Mouth rot is caused by acidic ammonia in the water or low pH burning the mouth and it then being infected by otherwise harmless bacteria in the tank. Its a burn. This often has no time to heal because the acid (whichever one) is constantly returning and tweaking in the water so the mouth has no time at any point to heal. Acid and toxin free water heals mouth rot best.

I'll try to be brief and keep it simple, please take the time to read this - its so important to know.

As well as what we feed our osmotic aquatic pets, their water is a kind of source of nutrition for them. It passes through them. As they exude ammonia and toxins from their mouth and gills and kidneys, every single minute, the water collects it and passes it back through them. This means that the fish are being constantly exposed to their own poisonous waste even when we use a filter as of course all fish-keepers should.

Some fish -like your well fish- are very strong to the damage of ammonia and nitrites and low pH (some of the toxins in the water every day) and will do fine for years - although they will not grow and there will be unseen damage in the inner organs- but these are rarer ones. Most fish succumb to disease as soon as their threshold for ammonia/nitrites/high nitrates/toxins is reached. Fish diseases like mouth rot/clamp are caused by bacteria in the water that are quite harmless to fish who are strong and to fish who have not had their immunity weakened by these toxins in the water..

Now I know you are thinking "But I just cleaned all the gravel, changed all the water and polished the tank in de-chlor water"...and yes I know you did that and it was probably a good idea for the moment, but that gravel in there is home to millions of bacteria (nitrosomonas and nitrobacter)that as fish owners we really need to look after because those good bacteria there are consuming and converting all the nasty toxins the fish excrete into harmless ions. Moreover once those toxin converting bacteria are fully fed, they begin to breed and become more plentiful so that after a few months there are so many we really don't have to worry about those water toxins so much any more.

But it takes time to build their colonies. It takes about 2 months. And if this process was never understood, we have a situation where the owner overcleans and the tank is back to square one of that precious "cycle". These bacteria we are aiming to breed are very delicate and huge cleanings are not necessary- small cleanings more often are the better way to encourage them- full water changes are fine- its the cleaning of the media and ornaments and gravel that has to be staggered. And the less good bacteria in the tank, the more dangerous overcleaning is.

These bacteria are in the millions in established tanks where all the fish are healthy and the owner can sit back, smoke his cigar or whatever and enjoy watching his glimmering tank and do maybe only one partial water change a week to maintain this happy camp. But he has got there through an understanding of this nitrogen cycle and by creating a routine where he cleans one filter one week and the other filter the next week, where he cleans the gravel only one quarter at a time etc etc...

Contrary to popular myth and what you may have been told by fish stores and even other owners, these nice bacteria do not live in the water! They may hang around a bit in the water but every good decent nitrosomonas and nitrobacter citizen in your tank there is actually looking for a place to hang his hat :exactly . And that place is? In the filter media and in the gravel. This is where they choose to attach, settle and thrive. So the media and the gravel should never be cleaned all on the same day and media should never be thrown out just rinsed and should be plentiful too...allowing max space for homing the good bacteria. Ceramic hoops and bioballs are great for beneficial bacteria colonization as well as the sponge stuff.

Anyway, as for what to do next for your immediate situation and mouth shut fish- I suggest, after trying to understand this "cycle" biz, that you commit to doing 50% water changes daily- without exception- for at least one month. And get yourself a testing kit (API do an all in one: nitrite/ammonia/nitrate/pH kit) which will I know set you back more than the fish cost themselves but that's how it is... and realise through testing your water the connection of water toxins with all fish diseases. If you can sustain toxin free water (zero nitrites and zero ammonia and as important nitrates under 10) for one month I can guarantee your fish will open his mouth again. If you have high nitrates in that water for example mouth clamp can progress to flipover. If you have low pH or ammonia mouth clamp can lead to columnaris type disease..etc.

Adding fungal meds to the water is not a good idea because toxins are building up again every minute and meds + toxins (any of them) can be fatal. If you must medicate you would need to do this separately and use a separate tank and be prepared to change the water 100% daily (no cycle). Thats the only safe way to do it. Moreover fish that are not sick should never be exposed to meds. They are highly toxic if not needed.

I know it sounds simple, that the water will heal but it can- far better than many meds will in fact. Salt is also a great healer for torn fins and you can add that too at 0.1% if you can keep track with the water changes accurately. There's a link in my sig how to do that.

Now for the last part...when did you add the 12 cent fish? Was it within a few weeks ago? In which case I suspect you may also have flukes in your tank. Many new fish harbor them and tail fin rot and head banging can be symptoms. Prazi is a safe medication that will take care of these parasites. Again, it must be dosed in toxin free water so you really need the water test kit urgently and first.

Welcome to kokos :)

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Guest Gemelli

Wow! Thanks a lot. That is a lot of info.

The 12 cent fish and the festival fish have been together since August so parasites probably aren't an issue. I'm guessing it's all about water quality (or lack thereof).

I'll get working on fixing the problems.

Much appreciated!

Gem

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Guest Gemelli

P.S.-What is the sting-like, almost hair-like, clear feces about?

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Welcome to Kokos! :welcome

You are in good hands with Trinket. :goodpost That is simply put the best explanation I have heard so far.

As for the parasites.....typically we should quarantene any new fish (been there and done that but I brought Ich to my tank).....but if they haven't been treated for flukes it is a good idea. Especially if Trinket thinks so!

Follow Trinket's advice. I know it is a lot of work for now, but once your tank cycle's it will be easier.

Not sure if Trinket mentioned it, but on the testing kit make sure they are the drops as the strips tend to be inaccurate.

Again, welcome and :goodluck

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Guest Gemelli

Hello,

Here is my follow up. I did 50% water changes on the 8th, and 9th. Today I tested the water with a strip...(all I could find today) and everything checked out great. Ammonia, nitrates, trites, chlorine were all in the safe zone. Both fish are hanging out at the bottom of the tank near each other in the corner. The smaller, well fish is not as active as before I cleaned the entire tank, but is still eating. The bigger guy still has his mouth firmly shut. How long can he go without eating? He seems to be slowing down? Should I add water conditioner or a bacteria starter? I'm afraid he is going to starve to death before he opens his mouth! What is the benefit of the 50% water changes for a month if the water registers ok right now? Will this inhibit the bacteria growth if I keep doing the changes? Sorry if I am a pain. I'm pretty clueless. I wasn't prepared to become a goldfish mom when my cousin surprised me with my children holding bags of goldfish!

Thanks,

Gem

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You are not a pain! You are new! And most of us here at one point or another were completely clueless too. Learning on the fly here from the moderators and other members!

Since the strips are most of the time inaccurate, you are not sure what the levels are. Try and get the drops (you can get an API Master drop kit online or at most pet stores)

Changing the water daily keeps your levels in a safe range for the fish while your tank cycles. Good bacteria lives in your filter media, on rocks, tank ornaments, etc. Not in the water. That is where the bad stuff resides. We need to keep the water as fresh and clean as possible until the good bacteria multiply in the media. Re-read Trinkets post on water, it truly is a good post. Under Trinket's signature there is a link to tank cycling process and salting.

You did de-chlorinate the water, right? De-cholorinator and water conditioner...like Amquel plus, Prime, Nova aqua are fine, just follow the dosing instructions.

Goldfish can go a bit without eating. How many days has it been? As Leslie stated the white poo can be from stress or infection. Any other noticibles..red marks, frayed fins, etc...?

First, we need to get the water situation in hand.

So....You need to order Prazi (Ken has it on goldfishconnection.com). You need to get some Aquarium Salt and that test kit! Then you, with everyone at Koko's helping out are ready for the task at hand. Getting these fishies better!

Post back!

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Guest Gemelli

Yes, the water was dechlorinated. I did a change again tonight. They both just look so sad. It has been at least a week since the bigger guy has eaten. I reread about the bacteria building on the media and filter. Sorry forgot that part. Thanks! Hopefully he'll open that mouth before it's too late!

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Keep the water changes up. Can you get the meds, test kit and salt?

Do you have any peas, frozen? If so, heat them in the microwave till they are soft. Let them cool then take the husk off , squeeze the insides out and see if they will eat that. Fish love peas!

Let me know.

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First off that really was a WONDErFUL post by Trinket LOL (Definately saving this to my favorites)

Just as newbie said,the benefit of changing the water even though the params are good is that you ARE removing millions of bad bacteria that are living in the water through water changes... And the less there are, the easier it is for the fish to fight.. (Imagine being in a room with one person with a cold versus a room where you are stuck with 100 other people with a cold in a tight spot. The first is MUCH easier to fight off, but in the second, you are almost certainly going to get sick)

Also, most likely the reason you are SEEING those water parameters under control is because you have been doing the water changes. So keep it up for sure..

If the fish does not improve through the water quality, I am sure Trinket will have more options for you. But this is the best method for now. Believe me, I have a fish who has been sick for the LONGEST time...Trinket and I tried everything, and eventually decided that we needed to retry the perfect water method.... The fish is finally improving! Even no change at all is better than a change for the worse, so at this point, even if that is all the water changes are achieving, it is still a good thing.

I also agree....PRAZI. Always a good idea to treat a new fish for flukes with prazi.. the bottom sitting could very well be related. If possible I would order some prazi from goldfish connection or find someplace with hikari prazi pro. if you can keep the ammonia levels down as you are doing, then you could do a treatment like prazi because it is not as harsh as many other meds...

Trinket is amazing,and the advice she has given is sooo good...Try to trust her and her methods because they work... That girl is a fish genius!

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