Welcome to Discus Co. Freshwater Aquarium Blog! Our articles are specifically written in a simple language for easy grasping of fish keeping, discus care, aquatic diseases, and etc. Please note that we are neither veterinarians nor scientists and all the information about tropical fish that we are going to share here is based on our knowledge that gained through experience and study. We don’t claim to be infallible!
API General Cure powder is a great medication to treat both internal and external parasites in tropical fish including discus. API General Cure is effective against external protozoan parasites such as Oodinium and Spironucleus, Internal protozoa like Hexamita, velvet disease in marine fish, intestinal trematodes, fish lice, skin and gill flukes including dactylogyrus and gyrodactylus. API General Cure is best medication for newly purchased fish in quarantine tank! This way, you prevent a lot of external and internal parasites form being introduced to your main show tank.
Active Ingredient of API General Cure
The active ingredients of General Cure are 250 mg Metronidazole, and 75 mg Praziquantel per pack.
API Genral Cure For Ich Disease
API General Cure contain metronidazole which is known to be effective against Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, that is responsible for ICH disease. However, API General Cure is not the best option to treat ICH in fish as the praziquantel in this product can worsen symptoms of ICH disease , and impose unnecessary stress to fish.
API General Cure For Internal Parasites
API General Cure is effective against Hexamita and Intestinal Trematods which make it Number 1 treatment to cure white feces and internal parasites. However, there still are parasites like Intestinal nematode worms that this medication is unable to cure.
General Cure For Hole in the Head Disease
API General cure can be used for treating hole in the head disease as well, but for the same reason that mentioned above (Praziquantel), it is recommended to use products that contain pure Metronidazole.
Overdose and Side Effects of API General Cure
Do not overdose this medication! Overdosing with 2 different type of anti parasite medicines (Metronidazole and Praziquantel) in the same time could be fatal to your fish. Severe stress, leaning to sides, and rapid breathing are some of the signs that you should take seriously. Do not mix this medication with water conditioners that eliminate heavy metals.
API General Cure for Discus Fish
Works great for discus fish with Intestinal Parasites. API General Cure treats both hexamita and intestinal trematodes in discus fish. It also cures gill flukes in discus fish effectively.
Parasites are a natural components of all healthy ecosystems and all fish, including tropical Discus, can have internal and intestinal parasites. Even though these internal parasites are a natural occurrence, not a contamination, in certain conditions and circumstances, they can be problematic to fish. An intestinal parasite infection in fish is a condition in which a parasite (of any kind) infects the gastrointestinal tract of the fish. These parasites can live anywhere in the fish body, but they usually affect the intestinal tract of the fish. Diagnosing and treating Internal parasites in tropical fish can be challenging.
Are Internal Parasites Contagious?
The life cycle of some of these intestinal parasites is as short as 2 hours. So If only one fish in the tank have internal/intestinal parasites, which is very common, you can imagine all other fish of any type in the same tank actually have that certain parasite! Under normal circumstances and in a healthy aquarium tank, intestinal parasites are present in small numbers without causing disease in fish; however, if the fish is exposed to stress, the parasite may reproduce rapidly, resulting in infestation and eventually disease. So although transmission of internal parasites from one host to another can occur easily, they are not considered as a 100% contagious disease in fish. That's why only some fish get sick from intestinal parasites while other fish in the same tank are apparently doing well and look healthy.
Internal Parasites in Discus Fish
As with any other tropical aquarium fish, Discus is also susceptible to internal/intestinal parasites. Hexamita is the most common type of internal parasites in discus fish. Intestinal worms also affect discus. Live foods such as blood worms and live artemia drastically increase the risk of internal parasites in discus fish.
Symptoms of Intestinal Parasites in Tropical Fish
Internal parasites may not causes any specific clinical signs and symptoms in healthy fish; however, depending on type of the parasite, strain of the fish, water temperature, diet, and etc., fish may have symptoms like white stringy feces and loosing appetite. In very late stages of the condition, affected fish start getting thin and skinny and eventually die.
Internal Parasite Treatment
The drug of choice for treating Internal parasites in tropical discus fish depends on what parasite species your fish is infected by. However, for reasons we are going to explain shortly, best medication to treat Internal/Intestinal parasites in tropical fish at first attempt, is API General Cure.
Most Common Internal Parasites in Fish
The two major types of internal parasites that affect both freshwater and marine tropical fish in the aquarium, including Discus, are worms and protozoa. Protozoa are microscopic, single-celled organisms that can be free-living or parasitic in the aquarium tank. Among all intestinal protozoa, Hexamita is the most notorious cause of internal parasites in tropical fish such as Discus. Spironucleus is another very common flagellated protozoa that causes changes in poop shape and color through inflammation in the small bowel of fish. The other type of parasites infecting tropical fish such as Discus is called Helminth, also known as worm parasites. Among common parasitic worms, Cestodes or tapeworms, Trematodes or flukes, and Nematodes or roundworms, are some of the most common internal worms in the aquarium tanks and breeding farms. Feeding live foods to fish, increases the risk of exposure to intestinal parasitic infections.
Diagnosis of the type of Intestinal Parasite
I wish that I knew the answer to this question! In best of my knowledge, for an aquarium hobbyist like me, there is no practical way to diagnose the type of the intestinal parasite in fish as white feces, loosing appetite, and getting skinny are common symptoms in all fish with internal parasites. According to my experience on dealing with internal parasites in discus fish, compared to other intestinal parasite species, the Hexamita is more common than other types. That is why the first thing comes to mind for treating internal parasites in fish, is Metronidazole! and among those intestinal worms, I believe trematode and cestode are more common that nematode (Live foods introduce nematodes to your tank easily!) which can be treated effectively with Praziquantel. API General Cure is a great medication with active ingredient of Metronidazole + Praziquantel! So instead of wasting your time by trying metronidazole or praziquantel one by one, and waiting for weeks to see the results, I highly recommend you to start treatment with API General Cure as it is very safe and contains both medicines. You should only consider other types of parasites like nematodes if API General Cure does not cure the condition.
What is Spironucleus?
Spironucleus is a flagellate parasite that affects a large group of fish, including ornamental tropical species. Even though the Spironucleus is responsible for Hole in the head disease in fish ( Head and Lateral Line Erosion), not intestinal disorders like that of Hexamita in fish, It is believed that the Spironucleus causes changes in poop shape and color through inflammation in the small bowel of fish. That is a reason why it is often confused with Hexamita!
Spironucleus may not causes any specific clinical signs and symptoms in healthy fish. However, It causes the Hole in the Head Disease in fish with weakened immune system and nutrition deficiency. For more details about syptoms and signs, please read HITH article.
Treatment for Spironucleus in Fish
The treatment for Spironucleus in tropical fish like Discus is exactly the same as it is for Hexamita. For more details on how to treat and cure diseases caused by Spironucleus, please read the article "Hexamita in Tropical Fish" or "Hole in the Head Disease in Fish" in the blog section.
What is Hexamita?
Hexamita is a flagellate protozoa that affects the gastrointestinal tract of ornamental fish. Protozoa are microscopic, single-celled organisms that may or may not be parasitic to fish.
Can Fish Die from Hexamita?
Even though Hexamita is progressed slowly, it is often associated with high mortality if left untreated. Hexamita causes severe intestinal disorders in fish. It's believed that some Hexamita species are resistant to common medication such as Metronidazole which makes it hard to treat.
Causes of Hexamita in Tropical Fish
It is real hard to imagine a live aquatic ecosystem without any parasites! All living organisms, including fish, can have parasites including protozoa and parasitic worms. In other words, parasites are a natural components of all healthy aquatic ecosystems. Hexamita mainly targets Dicsus fish with weakened immune system. That's why only some fish catch hexamita apparently from nowhere.
Some Facts about Hexamita
Because of the facts that Both Hexamita and Spironucleus are one-celled protoza that can cause changes in fish poop shape & color and also the same treatment may be applied to both, Spironucleus species is sometimes incorrectly identified as Hexamita.
Most of the time, the Spironucleus is responsible for hole in the head disease in fish, whereas Hexamita is known to cause severe intestinal problems.
Most Hexamita species are non-parasitic organisms!
Not all white feces in fish is a result of Hexamita! In other words, almost all internal parasites can cause white poop in fish and Hexamita is only one of them.
Although almost all fish in the affected tank carry the parasite, because of the reasons mentioned earlier, not all of them will get sick.
Hexamita Symptoms in Fish
Hexamita may not causes any specific clinical signs and symptoms in fish.
Treatment for Hexamita in Fish
Don't use any kind of medications as long as fish still eat! Try commercial medicated foods like New Life Spectrum Hex Shield or medicated beef heart if there is still some appetite in fish! As Hexamita is a well-known problem among tropical fish including Discus, there are a variety of treatments for Hexamita in fish.
Metronidazole shown to be an effective treatment for Hexamita in tropical fish; Pure Metronidazole powder administered in a medicated food is the most effective method of treating Hexamita in fish. However, if discus fish stop eating, bath treatment is alternative method. Resistance to Metronidazole, as well as bad water solubility, makes this drug a little bit hard to manage by newbies.
API General Cure™
API General Cure™ Powder is a great medication, if not best, that treats Hexamita in tropical fish. API General Cure™ Powder can be purchased from all Pet Shops in the U.S.
MetroPlex™ is an effective treatment for Hexamita in discus and tropical fish.
Thomas Labs Fish Zole™
Thomas Labs Fish Zole™ from Thomas Labs is a another medication that is effective against hexamita.
Metronidazole (MNZ) is a very popular and effective antiprotozoal medication in aquarium and ornamental fish industry which is used to treat a vast variety and range of both internal and external protozoan infections and parasites (not worms) in discus and other tropical fish. Other than a strong and reliable antiprotozoal drug, metronidazole is also an antibiotic medication that can treat Anaerobic bacterial infections. Other brand names of the same drug are Flagyl, Metrogel, Noritate, and MetroCream. However, flagyl is more common to be found than other brand names in the US market.
How to use Metronidazole to treat Discus Fish
When it comes to discus fish, the metronidazole plays an important role in all quarantining new fish, prevention, and treatment processes. Flagyl is mostly used to treat different kinds of flagellates and Internal protozoan parasites such as hexamita, external protozoan infections like Spironucleus which causes hole in the head & head and lateral line disease , Anaerobic bacterial infections, digestive and intestinal disorders, and etc.
Dosage & Administration
Before I go over Flagyl dosage, administration, and frequency, I would have to say that It really depends on circumstances and can vary case by case. By the way, there is no consensus among researchers, breeders, hobbyists, ornamental fish distributors, and etc and that is why there are so many different doses and administration routes for metronidazole. In the next paragraph, you will learn how to treat discus with metronidazole.
Metronidazole Dosage, How to Use Flagyl for Aquarium Fish & Discus
According to what I have read, learned, and experienced over the past years and also my personal opinion, the standard and the most effective dosage for the metronidazole, especially in a discus tank is 250 mg per 10 gallons of water every other day for up to 4 days with at least 50% water change before each dose. Keep in mind that at least a minimum of 3 doses is necessary to eliminate the newly hatched larvae of the parasites and that is because the eggs from parasites are not affected by Noritate; So that, although most of the live parasites will die rapidly right after the first dose of the medicine, the parasites eggs will be hatched couple of hours later.
Medicated Food & Doses
Metronidazole also can be used in fish food to improve the treatment effects. However, not in all cases the internally sick fish Having said that, treating discus fish with metronidazole is being done by different and sometimes weird doses some of them which are much stronger than discus liver can handle.
Metronidazole-Based Fish Medications
Human Metronidazole powders and tablets are not so water soluble and without using proper excipients and/or solvents, it is very unlikely that the drug will be effective, unless it is used in a medicated food. It is highly recommended to use an aquarium/fish medicine as they are very water soluble. Fish medications such as Fish Zole™ from Thomas Labs and Seachem MetroPlex™ are some of the best fish medications with active ingredient of Metronidazole.
Popeye Disease In Discus and Tropical Fish
Popeye in fish also called exophthalmus, proptosis, exorbitism, exophthalmia, or exophthalmos is not a specific discus disease itself but describes a condition and can be a symptom of an illness or infection in fish. Pope-eye disease/condition is bulging and swelling of one or both eyes of the aquarium fish. Although it is not difﬁcult to treat the discus popeye, early diagnosis is crucial for successful treatment of the disease. Popeye in discus is sometimes taken mistakenly as cloudy eye condition which is similar to pop-eye especially in its early stages.
Is Popeye a Contagious Disease in Fish?
Discus pop eye is generally not contagious and can be treated with wide spectrum antibiotics which are effective against eye infections.
Can Fish Die from Popeye?
The short answer is Yes! The Popeye condition can be fatal if it is left untreated.
Diagnosis and Identification of Popeye in Discus Fish
One or both eyes of the discus fish bulge outwards. Like cloudy eye, first symptoms is the outer surface of the fish’s eye which may be white or cloudy. If only one eye is protruding then it is known as unilateral Popeye that is easier to treat, but when both discus eyes are protruding this is called bilateral Popeye that usually implies serious bacterial infection which indicates that the condition is harder to cure. Swelling of the discus’s eye occurs when the fluid produced inside the eye doesn’t drain properly, causing a buildup of painful pressure within the eye, forcing the discus’s eyeball outward. If this fluid buildup and pressure is left untreated, it will cause severe bacterial infection in the eyes, and the eventual result will be blindness and death.
Pop-Eye Disease Treatments and Cures
As mentioned earlier, If this problem is not detected soon after it is caught, the discus can lose the eyesight in one or both of its eyes. So once you realize that your discus is having the Popeye condition, follow the instructions below ASAP:
First of all, you need to do a heavy water change. Sometimes, the pope-eye condition is nothing but a sign of poor water quality especially in cases which only one eye is swollen, or there are more than one fish affected.
Adding salt into the water provides numerous benefits including reducing stress and prevention of some secondary infections during the treatment period.
Using broad spectrum antibiotics especially those that are effective on eye infections is the best cure for this condition. Neomycin, Kanamycin, and Erythromycin are just some of the best examples.
There are also some effective commercial aquarium products for curing fish Popeye disease that can be purchased at almost all local aquarium and pet stores in the USA. Here is a list of some of the most popular fish medicines effective against pop-eye condition in aquarium fish.
API® E.M. Erythromycin
A very effective broad spectrum antibiotic from API that cure most of the Pop-eye problems that are caused by bacterial infections.
Another product from API that fight off bacterial infections cause Pop-eye in tropical fish.
Use API FURAN-2™ to cure the most sever forms of the disease. Don't use this if medication to cure popeye disease in discus if there is not sign of open wounds and sores on or around affected eye.
With the active ingredient of Kanamycin, the KanaPlex™ is a reliable antibiotic to treat most bacterial eye infections including Popeye in fish.
Cloudy Eyes in Discus and Tropical Fish
Cloudy Eyes is a very common problem/condition not only among discus, but most other tropical aquarium fish (some rare fish species have a normal cloudy sheen to their eyes). In most cases, the cloudy eye(s) is not a disease itself but rather a symptom which may or may not accompany diseases and medical conditions. Fatalities caused by cloudy eyes are rare and only occur at late stages of the condition progression and mainly through secondary bacterial, fungal, or even parasitic infections.
Is Cloudy Eyes a Contagious Disease?
As mentioned above, because of the fact that Cloudy Eyes in aquarium fish is not a disease itself but a symptom of an underlying disorder or condition, it is not considered as contagious. So if you have a discus or any other tropical fish with (unusual) cloudy eye(s), try to figure out possible reasons for it. Early diagnosis of the cause of cloudy eyes in tropical fish, can increase chances of survival and successful treatment. Cloudy eyes condition in discus and tropical fish can occur as a result of many conditions and diseases, whether serious or not. Here are some of the most common reasons for Cloudy Eyes in aquarium fish including Discus.
Poor Water Quality
The most common cause of the cloudy eyes condition in discus fish seems to be poor water quality. Clean water is a key to fish health. High levels of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate could cause the discus eye(s) to become cloudy. The amount of Chlorine and Chloramine in the water, too much salt, pH shock, medications, some water conditioners, drug interactions, sudden water temperature fluctuations, high TDS levels depending on what the TDS is made of , and etc can cause or worsen the condition either directly, or indirectly by weakening the fish immune system.
Make sure that the ammonia level is 0. You need to consider the Nitrogen Cycle and New Tank Syndrome. Water has to be clear and clean!
Regular water changes are a critical part of discus tank maintenance. Water changes should be performed properly or they could do more harm than good. A sudden temperature change during water change can be problematic to your fish, or worsen the condition.
Use a proper water conditioner to eliminate chlorine and chloramine in the tap water. If the water contains only chlorine and not chloramine, you can let it sit for up to 24 hours and the chlorine will dissipate into the environment. Pumping air through water using a large air stone and/or water pump, help chlorine to evaporate faster. However, Chloramine needs to be removed by heavy carbon filtration, or by adding a proper water conditioner.
Do not overdose medications; Some medications such as formalin, especially if used in high GH levels or in combination with other drugs, can cause cloudy eye condition.
If you plan to add any kind of medications, especially metal based ones like copper sulfate, please DO NOT mix it with heavy metal eradicator water conditioners and vice versa! Using a heavy metal eliminator water conditioner to remove chlorine/chloramine and adding metal-based drugs to the water can increase the risk of catastrophic drug interactions.
Do Not add acid to water directly! Try other ways for adjusting pH, especially if you are a newbie.
The points outlined above are only some of the many reasons why or how the water quality can lead to Cloudy Eyes in tropical fish. In the next paragraph, I am going to discuss disease-related causes for cloudy eyes in aquarium fish.
Treatment and Cure
Anything that weaken the fish immune system including severe and constant stress, bullying from other tank mates, malnutrition, weakness, and etc can cause cloudiness in fish eyes. The best cure is to find possible underlying causes of the condition. In most cases changing water regularly and adding salt is helpful, especially in early stages of the condition.
Hole in the Head Disease in Discus and Tropical Fish
Hole in the Head (HITH) in fish, also known as Head and Lateral Line Erosion (HLLE), is a very common aquarium and tropical fish disease that affects most Cichlids such as Symphysodon Discus, Oscars, and etc. Saltwater fish are also susceptible to head and lateral line erosion disease. The hole in the head disease usually starts with small holes in the the head and lateral line of the fish and as the condition progress you may notice some ugly pits, lesions, and wounds.
Is Hole in the Head Disease Fatal?
Although the hole in the head disease in the aquarium can be fatal to tropical fish such as discus, this is not always the case. If properly diagnosed and treated, especially those detected early, the hole in the head disease can be treated effectively by medication and proper diet.
Is Hole in the Head Disease Contagious?
Many people want to know how contagious the hole in the head disease is in discus fish and aquarium tanks? Even though head and lateral line erosion disease is not a 100% non-contagious/non-transmissible disease, it is not normally considered as a contagious sickness among discus fish and tropical aquarium environments. This is because there is a direct link between lateral line erosion disease (HLLE) and nutrition deficiency in fish.
What cause hole in the head disease in Fish
Nutritional factors and infectious disease contribute to HITH among discus and other freshwater tropical fish . Spironucleus is a flagellated protozoan parasite responsible for the disease hole in the head in tropical aquarium fish such as discus. However, many people believe that Hexamita can also cause the head and lateral line erosion disease in discus fish which is controversial. Although the hole in the head disease is caused by protozoan flagellates and needs be cured immediately by medication, you should also consider the other reason behind HITH which is nutritional deficiency. In fact, the lack of vitamins and minerals help disease development. A strong and healthy discus fish won't get affected by protozoan Spironucleus and HLLE unless it is already suffering from nutritional deficiency and subsequent weakened immune system.
Here are some of the causes for the hole in the head disease:
Long-term use of activated carbon in discus tank.
Frequently feeding beef heart and frozen Bloodworms.
Vitamin deficiency and bad/poor diet.
Minerals and calcium deficiency.
High stress levels in discus fish. Stress can affect immune system of the discus.
Hole in the head is an easy disease to diagnose with some obvious medical symptoms including:
Small sores above the discus eyes and on the sides of the head.
Small pits around the head of the discus and/or it's lateral line.
Small holes and lesions on the fish's skin and around the lateral line which is the most common symptom of the hole in the head disease.
Stringy mucus on skin erosion and wounds.
Secondary infections and eventually death in discus fish.
As stated before, fortunately the hole in the head disease is not hard to treat at all. However, a quick and proper diagnosis is required to treat head and lateral line erosion disease effectively. So If you have discus fish, Oscar, or other Tropical Cichlid with holes, pits, and lesions around their head and face, just do not get scared and follow the instructions in this article. If the hole in the head disease diagnosed and treated in early stages of the progression, the fatality rate will be close to zero! However, this disease can develop rapidly over a period of days. The main priority is to control and eliminate the Pathogen that causes the hole in the head disease in your discus which is Spironucleus flagellate. For doing so, you should use medications that are effective in controlling protozoan parasites. Make sure to follow the directions and instructions from whatever medication that you use. Healing period must be completed fully, so don't stop treatment once you no longer see the symptoms of the disease in discus, or even when the white holes are no longer visible on discus head. Here is a list of some of the well-known and effective medications and treatments to cure hole in the head disease or head and lateral line erosion in the aquarium fish.
The best and most common treatment option for hole in the head disease in the aquarium environment, not only in discus but all other ornamental tropical fish is Metronidazole.
API General Cure™ Powder
If you live in the United States, the API General Cure is and easy option to buy. You can find it at almost any local Petco or Petsmart stores. General Cure from API is a great medication to treat the hole in the head disease in discus and other tropical fish.
Fish Zole from Thomas Labs is a very water-soluble metronidazole -based medication that cure hole in the head disease effectively.
Metro+ from Hikari is another effective product to treat HITH in discus.
The hole in the head disease can easily be prevented in aquarium fish. A healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals reduces the risk of HITH in fish. Even though it is not proven yet that there is a link between hole in the head disease development and activated carbon, there are some researches that show that it may increase the chance of development of the head and lateral line erosion disease in all tropical fish including discus by removing essential minerals from the water. So remove all activated carbons from the filtration system. Do not use pure R/O or distilled water. There are some necessary minerals and trace elements that are important to discus. As previously mentioned, one of the main reasons for this disease is lack of minerals in the water. Mixing distilled or reverse osmosis (R/O) water with tap water to add essential trace elements and minerals back into the purified water is not a bad idea. However, there are some aquarium commercial products to add minerals back into the aquarium water such as Sera Mineral Salt, Kent R/O Right Water, Seachem Replenish, and etc. Change your fish diet and bear in mind that too much beefheart with no additive can lead your discus to nutritional deficiency which make the fish prone to hole in the head disease. Discus must have a balanced diet including pellet foods, flake foods, vitamins, frozen foods, shrimp, and etc.
Leaning to one side or another in discus fish, also known as tilting sideways and laying flat is a common and very general symptom in a sick or stressed discus fish. This behavior usually happens at the dark corners of the aquarium, near the surface or bottom of the tank. Tilting and laying down to one side or another among discus is just a symptom or sign, not a disease by itself and can implies many diseases and/or stress causes.
[caption id="attachment_339" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Discus Fish Leaning to One Side[/caption]
Discus Fish Leaning to One Side
Are your discus fish leaning to one side / tilting sideways? Here are some common reasons why:
Discus Plague or Black Disease is one of the most common issues that cause discus leaning and tilting to one side.
Gill flukes are another reason to laying down in discus fish.
External protozoan parasites such as costia, chilodonella, Ichthyophthirius (Fish Ich), and etc.
High ammonia levels can also cause tilting and leaning in discus.
High levels of stress, especially in young fishes.
Sudden change in water parameters like pH shock can lead discus fish leaning to one side and laying down.
Too high water temperature. normally the discus fish should be kept at 28°C.
High salt level in aquarium or strong salt bath. keep in mind that discus is not a marine fish!
Poisoning of chemicals, medicines or or whatever. toxic aquarium water can not be tolerated by discus fish. chlorine and chloramine are the most common causes of poisoning in a discus tank.
Extreme thinness and weakness. nutritional efficiency can cause of tilting, leaning, and laying flat on the bottom of the tank in discus.
Serious digestive and intestinal diseases.
Discus Fish Laying Down on its Sides
As a discus keeper, you must be able to find out why are your discus fish tilting and laying flat on the sideways in the tank. It's always important to monitor your aquarium water and fishes since any change in the behavior of a fish can be a sign disease in the tank.
What is Discus Plague or Black Disease?
The main cause of death in most imported discus fish from east Asian countries such as Thailand and Malaysia is a fatal viral disease which is colloquially known as Discus Plague or Black Disease. Sometimes, It is also called discus flu! Due to the lack of research studies associated with this strange disease, there is no scientific name or treatment for it. Dr.Tom Waltzek ( Assistant Research Professor - DVM, Ph.D., University of Florida) believes that what we call "Discus Plague" is just a herpes virus. According to my experience with importing discus and other tropical fish from Asia, this disease affects Discus, Angelfish, Banded Cichlid (Severum), and Oscars. I also found some man-made hybrids prone to this disease. In this article, I will discuss black disease, general symptoms/signs of the discus plague, and possible treatments and cures.
Where did Discus Plague originate from?
The origin of discus plague has puzzled many aquarium hobbyists and discus breeders since it first came to light in the early 1985's in European discus hatcheries. As soon as discus plague was identified, many discus hobbyists and breeders started trying to understand where the plague disease had come from and why it had spread in aquarium tanks and fish farms. Although there are various theories about the origin of the black disease in discus, most of them are nothing but personal opinions. However, if we assume that the cause of what we call discus plague is just a herpes virus, it will seem that the plague disease has been circulating among some south American Cichlids for many years before being recognized in aquariums and ornamental fish such as discus!
How do we know that Discus Plague is caused by a virus?
As mentioned earlier, very little scientific evidence exists about Discus Plague or Black Disease and all we know about it is based on our beliefs. Although it's difficult to determine the origin of the discus plague, there are some signs and symptoms in infected fish that show that Discus Black Disease is probably a viral infection. One of the most important reasons for the Discus Plague to be known as a viral infection is because in most cases, discus only get a certain sub-type of plague virus just once. Actually, every time a discus recovers from an infection, its body creates a store of antibodies against that particular sub-type of virus. As more viruses exhibit this behavior, we are able to understand that the Plague of Discus Fish would be a viral infection too! However, some experts believe that other forms of the disease probably existed. so a discus that recovers from a certain form of discus plague virus is vulnerable to other forms of the illness.
How is the Discus Plague Spread in Fish?
Discus Plague is a highly contagious viral disease that can spread from tank to tank and from fish to fish. It seems that the main cause of the disease is an airborne virus that can be transmitted to the water! So all the tanks and fishes in the same room, same house, or even same building can be exposed to the Discus Black Disease virus without even having to share equipment. If you quarantine an infected discus in a separate room of the same building or house, the plague virus can go airborne and spread to all other tanks of your hatchery or farm. Needless to emphasize that introducing any new tank mates, aquarium plants, or even equipment from an infected tank can run the risk of introducing disease. And another thing is that if you plan to add new discus fish that used to have discus plague in the past, be aware of the transmission risks! Basically, I would not recommend introducing any new discus to an aquarium that used to contain the disease for 6 months or more! Survivors of the discus plague may carry the black disease virus for up to 6 months and should be kept separately.
Symptoms of the Discus Plague or Black Disease
During the first stages, infected fish will have rapid and sometimes heavy breathing up to 3 breaths per second.
You may notice a group of discus swimming up and down at the corner of the tank for no apparent reason. This type of behavior is very common in early stages of the plague illness especially in young discus flocks.
Hanging in the dark corners near bottom or top of the tank.
Leaning to one side or another at top or bottom of the tank.
Peppering and increasing black spots on the discus skin.
Not eating, being shy, or hiding behind aquarium decorations and filters with clamped fins.
Turning dark or even black in color(especially in blue and brown strains).
Excessive mucus and slime coat production.
Scratching and rubbing against aquarium objects; they may also start darting and twitching.
Severe fin rot and/or columnaris.
White patches and/or points on fish's skin; these white spots usually are caused by secondary infections such as external parasites, bacteria and fungi.
Cloudy and/or smelly water due to large amount of slime coat and protein.
The virus will run from one tank to another and spread across the whole farm or store in less than 2 or 3 days. The total duration of the discus plague is usually less than 7 days but it can last up to couples of weeks if there are secondary infections.
Treatment is Supportive, and There is no Cure!
Since Black Disease is a viral infection, there is no absolute cure or treatment for it. Discus plague is much like the human HIV virus. This disease tends to weaken the fish's immune system and make the discus fish more susceptible to secondary infections and diseases that the fish would normally be able to fight off. In most cases, plague virus does not kill the discus directly, but indirectly by weakening the immune system. These secondary infections are the main causes of death and high mortality rate for infected discus. Although you can not eradicate the plague virus, the fish's immune system can! Therefore, you can save your discus by boosting their immune system to fight the virus. Sometimes, some medication and antibiotics may be needed to control the bacterial, fungal and other possible secondary infections. Once they recover, they will have the immunity and the antibody to that certain sub-type of the disease by which they were infected with. Still, you must always beware of other types of this pathogen. Dr. Reeves believes that new discus should be kept by themselves in a separate tank for at least six weeks. Discus who have been exposed to the virus will be contagious for six weeks after the signs of the plague are gone. One way to see if the fish are going to give any type of disease to another fish is to put a fish you don't value in the quarantine tank. If that fish doesn't get sick, and when 6 weeks have passed, that fish is not likely to give anything to your older fish. By our experience, it is better to wait for at least 6 months before adding any new discus to your tank. In the next paragraph, you will learn about discus plague treatment and possible cures.
Medications to cure Discus Plague
If there is no certain cure and known treatment for the plague virus, should we wait and watch all sick discus die of the disease and do nothing? Of course not! Even though there is nothing can be done to the virus, we can help the fish to be able to fight back and beat the plague disease! The most important thing about this disease is that you can save your infected discus fish by helping their immune system and controlling what we believe are secondary infections. Here's some advice for help the infected discus.
Increasing the temperature of the water up to 92 degrees Fahrenheit can increase discus metabolic function and boost fish's immune system. The stronger immune system, the less likely discus plague can cause havoc.
In order to control secondary infections, a general treatment can be effective against many types of external parasites and fungal infections. Medications such as API General Cure™ Powder and AZOO Magic Disease Treatment are some of the best examples. Copper Sulfate and Acriflavine are also effective in controlling many types of external protozoan parasites such as Costia, Chilodonella, and etc., which are responsible for most skin damages during plague. Please Do NOT use Formalin and Malachite green for controling parasites during plague as Formalin decreases the dissolved oxygen while it has to be higher than usual!
Bacterial infections are other causes of death among plague infected discus. Broad-spectrum antibiotics like Tetracyclines, Kanamycin, Neomycin Sulfate, Nitrofurazone, and etc., are just some of the common antibiotics among aquarium hobbyists and depending on the type of the infection, can be used to prevent, control, or even treat many types of (secondary) bacterial infections. The most rigorous way to decide which antibiotic to use for controlling secondary bacterial infections during discus plague condition, is to isolate the bacteria and then test for antibiotic susceptibility, which should be done in a lab by a technician. As this is a time consuming process , perhaps the best way is trial and error, along with experience.
Heavy water change is the key, you have to do at least one 100% water change every 24 hours and before adding the new dosage of the medicines.
Potassium Permanganate is a powerful oxidizer that kills most (if not all) external parasites, as well as bacterial and fungal infections. Use potassium permanganate to treat discus plague only if you know what you do as a small overdose can result in fish death.
There are still many professionals and experts that believe there is no such thing as Plague Virus, Discus Plague, or Discus Black Disease, and what we call "Plague" is just a combination of other diseases and conditions. Since there is no scientific proof of the existence of discus plague, there are many different opinions about this issue. I know some far eastern discus breeders that call this disease "a 5 star disease" and as said earlier, all of these are personal opinions and experiences.
White Feces/Long Stringy Poop in Fish
White feces in fish, also called white stringy poop, is a fairly common symptom in both freshwater and marine aquarium fish which not always accompanies a certain disease. However, most of the time, the lumpy and/or white stringy feces (or sometimes even yellow poop) in discus fish is a sign of fecal disorders such as internal diseases and in particular, parasitic infections. Bacterial infections can be the other disease-related reason for white stringy feces in tropical fish and Symphysodon discus.
If you see yellow to white feces and/or the long, lumpy, stringy, and segmented poops present in the tank water or hanging from the fish's anus, then you should be concerned about possible diseases such as intestinal parasites, internal infections, high levels of stress, and etc. Even though the white segmented poop is usually a symptom of internal parasites among discus, it is not always the case and white stringy feces is not necessarily a sign of a certain disease and can be caused by so many other factors.
In this article, I introduce and state the symptoms and signs, causes, and possible treatments and cures for white feces/long stringy poop in tropical discus fish. I will be trying to make you able to distinguish normal poop from abnormal, distinguish disease-related conditions from non-disease-related, diagnose the reasons and causes, and finally choose possible right medications to treat the condition.
Non-disease-related Causes for White Feces in Discus
Although, in most of the time, the white lumpy feces in discus could be an evidence of existence of a disease, it is not always the case. So before using any medications, make sure whether your discus needs it or not and bear in mind that all drugs and medicines have potential side effects, so unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics and anti-parasite medications carries major risks for fish health . Here are the most common Non-disease-related causes and reasons for stringy white poop in discus fish.
Stress: Indigestion, Diarrhea & Digestive Disorder
Long-term exposure to stress, regardless of where the stress comes from, lead discus and all other sensitive fish to serious health problems such as indigestion, conditions like diarrhea, and other digestive disorders. As a discus keeper, you must be able to diagnose, reduce and stop the roots of stress in the aquarium environment and especially discus tank. Sudden changes in the water parameters and tank environment, as well as, high levels of ammonia and chlorine can be the possible causes of stress. Also, stress can be caused by an excessively bright tank or the presence of disease. There should be many other causes of stress in a discus fish that only can be diagnosed by the discus keeper. You will need to regularly check your aquarium and fish, since any change in the appearance or behavior of a discus may be a sign of stress.
Diet: Poop Color, Shape, and Texture
The fish diet can affect the color or consistency of the poop, particularly if the food is new to your discus digestive system. A very common example of if this condition is when you added like spinach, Spirulina algae, peas, Magnesium sulfate(Epsom salt), etc. in fish food or beef heart mix. Any dried fish food should be soaked for couple of minutes first to avoid digestive upsets. Discus can hardly digests high fiber vegetables and greens, so it is highly recommended to boil them before adding to beef heart mix. Some medications and multivitamins can also change fish feces in different ways. By the way, not-eating or eating very little, can have the same outcome.
Examples of a bad or low-quality diet are when it consists of too much fiber and/or fat, when there is a grow or color hormone in it and when there is a sudden change in it. If your fish is not eating or is overfeeding then that can also change fish feces color to white as well. White segmented feces can be also a result of a beefheart-only diet in discus.
Disease-related Causes for Discus White Stringy Poop
As mentioned above, diseases are the most usual reason for white feces symptom in discus. These diseases and infections can be either primary or secondary and they also affect fish poop either directly or indirectly. For example, some of them affect digestive system only by imposing a lot of stress to fish and not directly! Any ways, here are some of the most common disease-related reasons for stringy poop in fish.
When a discus has long stringy poop, the first thing that comes to mind is Internal parasites. These internal parasites could be either intestinal protozoa or intestinal worms. Among all intestinal protozoa, Hexamita is the most notorious cause of white poop in discus. Other than Hexamita, some believe that Spironucleus which is known for causing hole in the head disease in fish can also change the poop color and shape. Some of the most common worms that can affect tropical fish especially discus are tapeworms such as cestodes, flukes such as trematodes, and roundworms such as nematodes. These parasites can be spread and introduced through new plants, fish and other objects into the aquarium and discus tank.
Internal Bacterial Infections
Internal bacterial diseases and infections such as bloated stomach, swim bladder(also known as gas bladder), rectal infections, dropsy, etc. are some common causes for white and long stringy feces. Antibiotics are effective against these internal bacterial infections.
Treatment, Cure, and Medication for White Stringy Feces in Discus Fish
Since it is just a symptom of an underlying disorder in fish, there is no certain medication or treatment to cure it. In other words, you can not cure white feces/long stringy poop condition without knowing its causes. Medication for protozoan infection is different from that of parasitic worms. By the way, non-disease-related cases might not need any medication at all.
Discus keeping is not an easy hobby! Knowing more about discus fish, will help you keep your discus healthy and happy, and success in maintaining the health of your discus, will provide you with greater enjoyment. In this care sheet, you will learn some simple tips and guides on how to keep, and take care of your discus fish.
Discus Keeping Made Easy!
Beginners are more subject to the risks of the keeping discus fish as they have a lowest practical experience on this beautiful sensitive fish. There is absolutely no secret and everyone will find discus keeping easy if they follow our guidelines. Here is some basic tips on how to keep discus healthy and active.
Buy Healthy Discus Fish from Trusted Sources
Choosing and buying healthy and high quality discus is the first and most important part of discus keeping. Never buy discus from aquarium stores and/or tanks that have any obvious sick discus fish. Unhealthy discus often hide or are dark in color. You also must check the Discus for signs like hanging white string of feces, hole in the head, and heavy breathing. To make a good selection, we highly recommend you to read the how to choose good discus fish article. As a new discus hobbyist, there are many signs and symptoms that you are unable to observe, or deal with, on your own. Sadly, not all diseases are treatable, and there are conditions and diseases such as discus plague, that not only kills all discus fish in the affected tank, but goes airborne from one room to another, and affect all live discus fish in the environment. You can buy discus fish from Discus Co. online store and we promise to provide you with the healthiest possible discus in the USA. The care that our discus receive at Discus Co. is wonderful.
Quarantine all New Discus, Even if you are sure about their health!
Newly bought discus are prone to the Discus Black Disease or Discus Plague. There are also many other diseases such as external and Intestinal/internal parasites, fungal and bacterial infections, and etc. A plague attack is obvious when most of the discus fish in the aquarium stack together or rub against aquarium objects, or when their bodies turn black and the eyes become cloudy. If you bought your discus fish from a trusted source and there are no other fish in your aquarium tank, then you may place the new discus directly into the new aquarium. If you already have discus or any other fish in your tank, then you have to quarantine the new discus in a separated tank for at least 2 months. Quarantine tank should be especially set up for quarantining purpose and located in a separate room, as it is a must in discus keeping. For more information about quarantining discus fish read how to quarantine discus fish article.
Setting up a Perfect Fish Tank for Discus
A bare bottom and large enough tank is a good choice to start discus keeping. Bare bottom aquariums are much easier to care, helping you to have healthier discus fish. A disease-free and healthy discus in right water parameters, grows faster than what you might expect. So you will need at least a 230 Litter(60 gallon) tank with a minimum of 60 cm in height. Discus prefer deeper tanks. More depth in the discus tank, will help the fish to have less stress and to grow faster.
Keeping discus fish can be made easy by preparing an excellent water quality. They need a toxin free, soft, and acidic water. To get the best possible result, you need to know a little bit about water chemistry. Toxins such as ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, phosphate, and also tap water chlorine and chloramine are very toxic for discus fish. Discus are also highly sensitive to a couple more water parameters or properties. Three properties: pH, gH or General Hardness, and kH or Carbonate Hardness. pH is a measure of how acidic/basic aquarium water is. The range goes from 0 – 14, with 7 being neutral. pHs of less than 7 indicate acidity, whereas a pH of greater than 7 indicates a base or alkalinity. In nature, Wild discus are living in the “black water” rivers of the Amazon River system with a soft and acidic water. Keep water pH between 6.8 and 7.5 and be careful about fluctuating pH in your discus tank. Stability is the most important factor in regard to pH. Water hardness is a measure of the dissolved mineral content of water. There are two types: the general hardness (GH) and carbonate hardness (KH). When keeping discus fish, the GH and the KH of aquarium water should match their natural habitat. A KH of 3-4 and GH of 4-5 can be great for Discus. I highly recommend you to read Discus Water article for a happy and healthy discus in your tank. Water changes are the key in discus health!
Another important part of Discus Keeping is Feeding Discus Fish. Like many central and south american cichlids, discus are omnivores and their diet varies from live insects and worms to algae and plants such as spirulina in the wild. Many people believe that live foods like blood worms, artemia, tubifex, and etc. are the best choices for Discus but bare this in mind, there are always parasite and disease risks with live food. So try to feed your discus with live food only if it is necessary to increase fish appetite. However, I recommend you to reduce the risk of parasites and disease by not feeding discus with live foods. Discus need a balanced diet consisting of beefheart mix and granules. For more information about diet, read the Discus Feeding article.
Need help on discus care?
If you need any help with keeping discus fish, or have any questions regarding discus care, you can ask it in our fish keeping forum.
[caption id="attachment_71" align="alignright" width="300"] Selecting Discus Fish - Choosing the Best Discus[/caption]
The first and most important part of Discus Keeping is to choose and select a good and high quality Discus Fish before buying it. If you go the wrong way in selecting fish, you will probably have many problems with discus keeping in all the next steps. There are various factors that you must know to be able to choose and buy the best possible discus fish. so if you want to know how to select the best discus, this is a useful article for you.
Selecting Discus Fish
Although the first thing that amateur discus buyers notice is the color of the fish, there are more important things needed to be considered in choosing and selecting a discus fish. Even without human interventions and genetic changes, discus fish have a wide range of color. Therefore too much focus on color criteria may lead to choosing a wrong fish. Before choosing a discus fish, consider the following factors:
[caption id="attachment_514" align="alignnone" width="300"] Signs of Healthy Discus Fish, How to Choose Good Discus[/caption]
What to Look for when Selecting Discus
The most important factor in selecting a discus fish is it's health.You must reconsider buying if there are any signs or symptoms of illness in discus fish.
Signs of Healthy Discus Fish
Discus fish illness signs are not always obvious and amateur customers may miss them. In order to choose the best and good discus, it is necessary to know the signs of healthy discus fish. Check the following criteria:
Discus fish wellness
Discus fish should be active and responsive to your hand movements. Healthy discus fish usually come to the surface to get food in response to getting close to the aquarium or upward motion of your hands. In best situations, the discus fish follows your hand or even goes up and down with your hand. Do not buy a discus fish which is too shy or under too much stress.
Discus Fish Eye Characteristics
Healthy discus fish must have clear and healthy eyes.One of the first signs of illness in discus fish is cloudy eyes. If the eyes are cloudy, matt, white, bubbled, or popped out, there is definitely something wrong with the discus. Another factor you must consider is the size of the eyes. If the eyes are too big, compared to the fishes body, the fish is probably small for its gestational age and therefore is not a good choice despite its healthy and beautiful color.
Color and other Skin Characteristics
One of the first signs that shows stress, sickness, or other unusual conditions is a change in skin color and condition. Avoid buying discus fish with black and dark skin (There is definitely something wrong it). Avoid buying discus fish with white spots, circles, scratches, or scars on the skin. Prevention is always better than treatment. Some viruses last months in your aquarium tank and getting rid of them will take a long time.
Fin and tail
Only buy discus fish with crystal clear fins or tails and with no scratches, sores, holes, colors, or hormones on them. Any erosion or color on fins or tail is highly suggestive of sickness.
Characteristics of discus fish feces
Long white or yellow feces hanging from discus fish is suggestive of internal infections, parasites, and etc. getting a fish like this will highly increase the risk of disease transmission to your main tank. Some parasite infections are really difficult or even impossible to be cured.
In some cases the style of the body of the fish is indicative of illness. For example being too fat or too skinny, especially in head and forhead area, not having a round or oval shape, any diversions in body, any dumps or holes around the stomach and other abnormalities indicate a sickness. Do not buy this discus fish.
Discus fish breaths and gills
One of the other indicators that help you choose a healthy discus fish is the characteristics of gills and breaths. A healthy adult discus fish in proper condition, breathes once every second or slightly less than a second. If a discus fish breathes fast, there is probably something wrong with the fish or its living condition. Note that fast breaths are not always sign of problems but it is always best to be coutious when buying and selecting discus fish.
How to Select a Discus Fish
If you are new and inexperienced in discus fish keeping, I suggest not to buy a fish with above signs and avoid getting a fish from a tank containing even a single fish with disease signs.