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Help! Comets Suddenly Got Very Sick: Spasms, Shimmy, Listless


Red17

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Hi everyone! First time posting and I have quite an urgent health issue!!!

I have two comets that I bought about a month ago. One (pure orange) has always been completely healthy. The other (orange and white) had clamped fins and mouth spasms/head jerk for a few days when I first got it. That cleared up without me having to do anything, and both have been healthy for about 3 weeks. They always have a great appetite and were very active around the tank. They are currently in a 6 gal tank as they are tiny at the moment, but will be moved to a larger tank in a few months when they are a lil bigger.

Yesterday both fish suddenly got sick. The orange and white one showed symptoms first:

*Swimming erratically around the tank

*Strong head jerk combined with mouth spasm: opening and closing mouth rapidly and erratically, shimmying

*Occasional yawning: only saw this a couple of times

*Rests at the surface listlessly, opening and closing mouth

*Fins clamped

The pure orange one was healthy at this point, but within a few hours was also darting erratically around the tank and jerking occasionally (previously that morning he had seemed a bit off, but I didn't think anything of it). Neither fish was rubbing against anything that I could see, and neither had any visible spots of streaks. Both still had a healthy appetite and regardless of their strange behaviour, still would swim excitedly up to greet me at feeding time! There are also six small snaills in the tank that have not shown any sign of illness.

The night before this, I had just done a 20% water change. I re-tested the water when the fish showed these symptoms: pH - 8.0; ammonia - 0.25ppm (can't seem to get it below this point, even though tank has been cycling since February); Nitrate - 10ppm; Nitrite - 0ppm. Temperature is warm, about 81 F, since we've been having a warm spell. I also have a filter that churns up the surface of the tank and adds bubbles, so I wouldn't think that there is a severe lack of oxygen.

I decided to do a large water change since about an hour before the fish got sick my boyfriend inadvertently sprayed some windex beside the tank while cleaning a mirror. I thought that perhaps the windex had contaminated the tank and poisoned the fish, so I changed about 80% of the water. I also took out an ornament that had been losing paint, since I was afraid of lead poisoning. Unfortunately this didn't help, even after about 6 hours.

I did some research and the symptoms seemed to point toward flukes or some parasitic infection. I added the recommended dose of Tetra Parasite Guard (similar to PraziPro; main active ingredient: Praziquantel), as I have heard that there would be no ill effect on the fish and thought it would be worth a try.

This morning, both fish are so much worse and I am afraid of losing them . 10 hours after adding the medication, the fish are showing the following symptoms:

*Very listless: when I woke up both were resting on the very bottom in separate corners and looking ill

*Fins clamped

*Orange and white one has occasional severe head jerk/mouth spasm

*When fish are swimming, either swim listlessly at top just staying in one spot, or dart erratically

*Swimming is a bit wobbly sometimes

*Occasional yawning (only saw this a couple of times)

Both still come eagerly over to me thinking they will get food, so that gives me some hope....... Does anyone have any ideas?? Did the prazi make it worse? Or does the prazi take awhile to work? I can't think of anything else to do!

Please help!! :unsure:

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Hello,

Could you please answer these questions. This will aid in the assessment of what is going with your fish.

[*]Test Results for the Following:

[*]Ammonia Level?

[*]Nitrite Level?

[*]Nitrate level?

[*]Ph Level, Tank (If possible, KH, GH and chloramines)?

[*]Ph Level, Tap (If possible, KH, GH and chloramines)?

[*]Brand of test-kit used and whether strips or drops?

[*]Water temperature?

[*]Tank size (how many gals.) and how long has it been running?

[*]What is the name and "size of the filter"(s)?

[*]How often do you change the water and how much?

[*]how many days ago was the last water change and how much did you change?

[*]How many fish in the tank and their size?

[*]What kind of water additives or conditioners?

[*]What do you feed your fish and how often?

[*]Any new fish added to the tank?

[*]Any medications added to the tank?

[*]Any unusual findings on the fish such as "grains of salt," bloody streaks, frayed fins or fungus?

[*]Any unusual behavior like staying at the bottom, not eating, etc.?

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[*]Test Results for the Following:

[*]Ammonia Level? 0.25 ppm

[*]Nitrite Level? 0ppm

[*]Nitrate level? 10ppm

[*]Ph Level, Tank (If possible, KH, GH and chloramines)? 8.0

[*]Ph Level, Tap (If possible, KH, GH and chloramines)? I'm not sure, although I would expect around 8.0 since the pH doesn't change when I do a water change.

[*]Brand of test-kit used and whether strips or drops? new API master test kit, drops

[*]Water temperature? 81 F

[*]Tank size (how many gals.) and how long has it been running? 6 gal, 4 months

[*]What is the name and "size of the filter"(s)? I am not sure, it came with the tank. It is just a small mechanical filter with a bubbler.

[*]How often do you change the water and how much? 20% approx every 5 days

[*]how many days ago was the last water change and how much did you change? Last water change was 80% yesterday, as I suspected poisoning.

[*]How many fish in the tank and their size? 2 comet goldfish, about 1 inch or so, although they have long fan-like tails so maybe 2 inches with tail.

[*]What kind of water additives or conditioners? Tetra AquaSafe water conditioner for water changes, I also add about 0.5 tsp aquarium salt per gal.

[*]What do you feed your fish and how often? Goldfish flakes, once or twice per day

[*]Any new fish added to the tank? Both fish were new and were added about 1 month ago. Previous batch of comets died: 1 from ich, 2 jumped tank (!) (back of tank has since been covered properly), 1 from what I suspect was mouth rot (new comets were in tank at this point)

[*]Any medications added to the tank? Tetra Parasite Guard, yesterday

[*]Any unusual findings on the fish such as "grains of salt," bloody streaks, frayed fins or fungus? No visual signs, I am stumped!

[*]Any unusual behavior like staying at the bottom, not eating, etc.? Clamped fins, mouth spasm/head jerk, swimming erratically or floating listlessly, or resting on bottom listlessly... please see my post for a more thorough description of symptoms

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From the symptoms you describe, it may be flukes, and Praziquantel can cause fish to bottom sit/become lethargic if the fluke infestation is particularly heavy. I would recommend finishing out the course of Prazi, and continue to do at least 3 more rounds. The concern I have is that because the tank is too small, you will need to monitor the parameters, and if ammonia don't let ammonia get higher than 0.25 (preferably 0). If it does get a above 0.25, you will need to do a water change, and dose the Prazi back in.

Usually, when Praziquantel is administered, it is given without the need for water changes, as the drug becomes inactivated after 3 days. Then, you let the fish rest for 4 days and repeat at least 3 more rounds. Since you need to do water changes due to ammonia, just make sure that after 72 hours, you do a very large water change (90%), and just add it clean water.

I also think that aeration/oxygenation/filtration may be another issue in your tank. Filters need to run at 10x the volume of the tank, or in the case at least 60gph. This is especially important when fish is medicated, you will need to make sure there is a lot of aeration in your tank.

Lastly, while the fish may be small right now, they will grow in no time, and will be severely constrained by the small tank size. If you could upgrade ASAP, that would be excellent. The recommendation for goldfish is 20gallons for the first fish, and then 20 additional gallons per additional single tail and 10 gallons per addition fancy.

Good luck! and please update! :)

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Thanks! I suspected flukes as well, so I hope that this medication does help. The bottom-sitting is kind of worrying, but I'm glad it might just be from the medication. Any idea why the symptoms worsened 10 fold so suddenly? They were honestly perfectly healthy yesterday morning, which is why I initially suspected poisoning!!! I am adding water conditioner, but are any of these symptoms related to high chlorine?

So let me recap on what I will plan to do, assuming it is flukes:

*Wait another 48 hours (total 72 hours) from first Prazi dose; monitor ammonia throughout

*Change about 90% of water

*Wait four days, do a regular water change (20%) to improve water conditions then re-dose with Prazi

*Repeat all steps for total of 4 Prazi rounds

I'll look into upgrading my filter today to a more powerful carbon system. I have been told that I should actually take out the carbon while the Prazi is in the tank. Is this true? Should I wait to upgrade until the fish are healthy again?

I am definitely looking into a larger tank. I have had comets before and they do get very large and beautiful!!

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Dnalex has given you awesome advice. I just have one thing to add.. I saw that you posted this:

Previous batch of comets died: 1 from ich, 2 jumped tank (!) (back of tank has since been covered properly), 1 from what I suspect was mouth rot (new comets were in tank at this point)

Was the previous batch of comets in the same tank and did you take any precautions to disinfect the tank between when the first batch was in there and the new fish? Based on the symptoms flukes does seem to be a very strong possibility so you should definitely continue with the prazi. But considering that you say that previous batch had ich you should probably salt the tank as well. I see that you have a small amount of salt in there but the concentration of salt used to kill the majority of parasites (including ich) is higher. For that the dose is 3 teaspoons per gallon which is 0.3%. If you have never salted these fish to that level I suggest you do it to rule out other possible parasites.. You will want to increase the salt slowly. Its best to dose to 0.1% (one teaspoon per gallon), then around 12 hours later up it to 0.2% (2 teaspoons per gallon) then 12 hours or so after that add the final amount to reach 0.3%... Once at 0.3% you should keep the salt level at that concentration for about two weeks and remember that during water changes, you will be removing salt. So just like you have to re-add the prazi, you have to replace the salt so that the concentration stays the same... For example, if you remove 3 gallons of water while the salt is at 0.3% you will have to add back in 9 teaspoons of salt.

Prazi and salt can be used together safely. Many of us here at kokos treat all new fish with both prazi and salt as a preventative while they are in quarentine. It may get confusing if you choose to salt while doing prazi though, so I would recommend writing down the concentration in a notebook or something so you always know whats in the tank at all times.

Praziquantel can cause fish to bottom sit/become lethargic if the fluke infestation is particularly heavy

This is absolutely true! 3 years ago my fish Angel was suspected of having flukes. I went ahead and started the prazi and the next day she was so so much worse. She looked like she was not going to make it and I was so scared. But the mod who was helping me at the time said to leave the prazi in and that she may get worse before she get better and sure enough that was the case. She improved in about a day.

Finally when dosing medications you must remove carbon from your filters because carbon will suck up the meds. It doesnt appear like that is an issue in your case since you just have a mechanical filter, but I wanted you to keep that in mind in the case that you end up upgrading to a larger tank/filter like Dnalex suggested. ***edit I posted this and then saw your reply in which you talked about this! :D***

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So let me recap on what I will plan to do, assuming it is flukes:

*Wait another 48 hours (total 72 hours) from first Prazi dose; monitor ammonia throughout

*Change about 90% of water

*Wait four days, do a regular water change (20%) to improve water conditions then re-dose with Prazi

*Repeat all steps for total of 4 Prazi rounds

I'll look into upgrading my filter today to a more powerful carbon system. I have been told that I should actually take out the carbon while the Prazi is in the tank. Is this true? Should I wait to upgrade until the fish are healthy again?

I am definitely looking into a larger tank. I have had comets before and they do get very large and beautiful!!

When you do water changes, since it's a very small tank, I would do a 80-90% water change instead of 20%. Also, you had indicated that you have a persistent ammonia problem. I think this may be due to the fact that the tank is small, and that the filter cannot handle the bio-load. You may want to start doing 50% water changes every other day.

This is very important - if your filter has carbon/activated charcoal, it will absorb all your meds. So, when you are treating, you need to remove the carbon from the system. If you are using the pre-made filter cartridges, I would just slice open the cartridge and empty out the carbon and then put the now-modified cartridge back to your filter.

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Thanks for all the advice!

CountryLovah, first one of the previous batch of comets died of ich. The ich problem cleared up and the remaining three fish were healthy, until two decided to hop over the back of the tank!!! The remaining fish was extremely skittish, being all alone in the tank, so I bought the two new fish. About a week or so later the old fish had some mouth problems (suspect mouth rot) and could no longer eat, and then died. Since the new fish were already introduced to the tank I didn't disinfect it. The new fish were healthy for about 3 weeks, and then suddenly got very ill yesterday.

I'll try adding more salt. Since there's already 0.1%, I'll increase to 0.2% right now, and then 0.3% tomorrow morning.

If I buy a new filter I will make sure to remove the carbon, and dnalex, I will do larger water changes.

Fingers crossed that the fish have improved by tomorrow. It's sad seeing them so ill!!

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Ok, so first round of Prazi is done. The fish aren't looking very much better. Both have clamped fins and either bottom-sit or float around listlessly at the surface. I thought they were doing better yesterday but they seemed to have got worse today. The yawning, shimmying and twitching has almost disappeared, so maybe the Prazi did work a bit. But now the pure orange one is now darting frantically around the tank and it seems as though his scales aren't as smooth as they normally are. He also looks like he might have scraped himself on the gravel, as it looks like some scales are missing in one spot. I'm aware of dropsy and the 'pinecone' look, but I don't think that this is what he has (or if it is then maybe he is just starting). He's swimming so fast I can hardly look at him properly! He also appears REALLY hungry and grabs the flakes very eagerly, but he spits everything out! I haven't seen him swallow anything... Poor guy!

I just did an 80% water change and am now at 0.3% salt. pH was up from 8.0 to 8.2 just before the water change, but nitrates dropped to 5ppm. Ammonia is the same. I am waiting 4 days to add more Prazi, as suggested by dnalex, unless someone has a suggestion of something I can do in the meantime! I'll do 50% water changes every other day to keep the water quality good.

If anyone has any suggestions on the pure orange fish, let me know!

Thanks!

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So now I'm reading that I should not be adding salt if dropsy is suspected... Again, I am not sure that it's dropsy but some scales do look a bit weird...did the increase in salt over the last few days worsen the condition? Should I do another water change and remove the salt??

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Hello. What type of salt did you use? Although salt is beneficial to fish, if there is any type of caking agent and/or additives in the salt, that could be very irritating to your fish. The darting may be the resulf of that, or it could be that it is still because of heavy fluke infestation. Is there any way you could post a picture of your fish, especially a top view, so that we can see what might be going on with the scales? Also, a video of the fast darting may also be helpful. What are your water parameters today?

Edit: the thin white poop could be signs of internal infection, or it could be due to stress. If you could post today's parameters and hopefully the pics and answer regarding the salt, we will go from there. Hang in there!

Edited by dnalex
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Just wondering and assume you took the Parasite Gaurd meds out before adding prazi, I imagine so as you did that 80% change...good.

I would say, as CL mentioned you may have some leftover ich larval forms, they can survive months in the tiniest droplet of water you and I cant even see....and I would also suggest another kind of parasite, there are so many and almost all can be cured with salt. The extreme flashing and scratching (given your pH and temp are stable) seems more akin to some other parasites than flukes which has IME the fish hanging out with lethargy at the tank sides rather than the more violent behavior you say, but that's just my xp.

I would anyway give the salt some time. No it will not hurt a dropsy fish. The dropsy could be from the parasites and the parasites need to be killed first.

Keep teh salt steady and the water ammonia free. Try feeding something that isn't commercial flake food to boost immune, peas, fruit and veg etc...when down..fish need daily vit C and to be honest after a packet of flake food is open a while a lot of vit C is lost.

Rootin' for your babies!!! :)

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Unfortunately I don't have a camera on me to take pictures/videos. But the darting is frantic, like he's either really hungry or like he's trying to escape. And it's not quick bursts, it's fairly constant while I'm in front of the tank. When I leave and watch from afar he seems a little bit calmer, and sometimes even bottom-sits. Maybe he's just really hungry, since I haven't seen him swallow anything for a day or so. From the side, the top of the fish still looks smooth. From the top, his scales looks veeeeery slightly rough. I don't think it would have even showed up in a photo. There's just one spot on his side that looks worse-off, a little rougher and some scales missing. He's got a slight lean when he's floating at the top. He definitely looks much more distressed than the other fish!

The salt I'm using is aquarium salt from the pet store, but there is no ingredient list on the carton. I will test the water again and post the results in a few minutes.

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Oh great! Sorry I must have skipped over Trinket's response.

I'm actually referring to Parasite Guard when I say Prazi, sorry about the confusion... It has Praziquantel in it, as well as some other active ingredients.

I'll give the salt a chance and re-dose with the Parasite Guard in 4 days! I hope this works, these two fish are awesome I would hate to lose either :( What type of veg can be fed? I have frozen peas, I could defrost some and break them up so they can eat them. I also have lettuce and carrots at the moment, couple of apples, some cucumber, but they don't seem like things fish would like...? Maybe the cucumber, since it's soft...!

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Cooked, de-shelled peas are always good, and great for the digestive system. As for the fruit suggestion to boost Vitamin C, you could try a very thin slice of orange :)

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I tried feeding the pure orange fish some peas yesterday, and I think he swallowed a few tiny pieces but spat most of them back out. The other fish didn't seem interested in the peas, but ate flakes fine. I'm worried that the pure orange one hasn't eaten in a few days, and I think this might explain his desperate behaviour. He darts around very quickly and hovers frantically on the side of the tank where I feed them. He then takes food eagerly in his mouth but can't seem to swallow it or keep it down.

Today, they both have tears and holes in their tail fins. I did another 50% water change today, even though parameters are constant. The pure orange fish isn't using his right pectoral fin; either it's clamped to his body or gone, I can only see a thin line held to his body and it has been like this for a couple of days. The orange and white one is bottom sitting almost constantly, and has redeveloped his twitch....I feel so helpless!! two more days til second round of Parasite Guard..... the salt is still at 0.3%.

They seem like they have a lot of life in them. I mean, they don't look like they are about to keel over and die, but they do seem very irritated!

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It seems to me that the spitting out the food is a classic sign of heavy fluke infestation, causing major gill irriration. I think that the best thing to do is to continue with the plan of salt & Parasite Clear. The good thing is that fish can go for many days without food. Have you tried to feed him something else besides peas. Right now, may be it's best to try to give him whatever he can eat. Try bloodworms, gel foods, or flakes, even. My calico butterfly also was spitting food out when she was sick, so I switched to gel food and that helped her tremendously.

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When you say irritated it makes me think of something in the water. But you are absolutely sure ammonia is zero yes? It is good to have constant updates on their behavior so someone may be able to pinpoint something that others don't notice, every detail helps. Those burn pin holes in fins are chemical related usually.

I would be a little bit worried about the acriflavin and the diflubenzuron in the Parasite Guard meds having killed off good bacteria. I haven't checked back on your cycle or how long the tank has been running as I wanted to post to say do check water twice a day for ammonia and keep changing it out. It is a pain with salt doing that but its very key to salt working. Aquarium salt is expensive, pickling salt or sea salt might be cheaper and are good too.

Meanwhile if fish have a heavy parasite load they do lose their appetite.

One last thing ..for this post....when he yawns (your orange fish) or opens his mouth..can you see inside his mouth? No stringy slimy bits or lumps just inside the mouth?

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Well some good and bad news. Bad news first: I lost one fish today (pure orange guy :( ). He developed a very prominent layer of mucous on his body and refused to eat anything! I even made a homemade gel recipe that I found on this website, but he just couldn't swallow. Poor guy!!

The good news is that the orange and white guy is looking much perkier. His fins aren't clamped anymore and he's eating regularly (he LOVES the gel food). I just did a large water change and added the second round of Parasite Guard. Are the salt and Parasite Guard ok for small snails? I took the snails out because they stopped coming out of their shells once the salt reached 0.3%. But now I'm thinking this might be a very bad idea, since I had planned on reintroducing them once the Parasite Guard rounds were done.......I want to make sure they don't have little flukes, worms or parasites on them as well, so I would rather put them back in the tank!!!! Let me know so that I can put them back in the tank immediately :)

Thanks everyone for all your support. Even though I lost one fish I still tried everything that I could, and am happy that the other fish seems to be recovering well :)

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Snail's don't get the parasites that the fish do, but they hold in water inside of them to keep them nice and wet. I would put them in a separate tub or small tank in fresh, de-chlorinated water and change it daily for maybe a week or so to ensure they have no old water inside of them that could harbor things like ich or disease.

I'm sorry about your fish :(

Edited by Haruka
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Ok will do. I have some gravel in with the snails so they have something to browse... I thought that parasites or their eggs could live on the rocks?

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