Ichthyophthirius (Ich) disease is a parasitic disease that is commonly referred to as the white spot disease. This is because the disease is most recognizable by the white spots that appear on the fish’s body and gills. This is one of the most common illnesses that effects freshwater fish and one that will most likely affect your aquarium at some point
Unfortunately, many fish keepers consider Ich disease nothing more than a nuisance. However, the truth is that numerous fish die every year from Ich disease. This may be due to the fact the many fish owner does not treat this disease as aggressively as they should.
What is Ich Disease?
Ich disease occurs when the parasite burrows itself into the skin of the fish. It will live there for several days feeding off the blood and skin of the fish. The fish will be very agitated and may be seen rubbing against the sides of the tank or rocks seeking comfort. After several days, the parasite will leave the host and lay several hundred eggs, which will seek out a host once they hatch.
Most fish develop immunity to the Ich disease over time, but if their immune system is weakened for any reason, this illness can attack. Stress is usually a contributing factor, which can be caused by poor water conditions, a drastic change in the water temperature, an overcrowded tank, or improper diet. Although, removing any of these stressors from the fish tank is a good first step, it may not be enough to cure the fish.
Symptoms of Ich Disease
As stated earlier, the best way to detect Ich disease is by observing the white spots on the body and gills of the fish. You may also notice that the fish has become lethargic and is floating close to the top or the bottom of the tank. As the disease progresses, the fish may become severely agitated, display signs of a respiratory problem, and have a decreased appetite.
The first step is always to improve the overall conditions of the tank. It should be cleaned thoroughly, including the gravel, rocks, and decorations. You can also change out about 40% of the water. If you have any type of fish other than cold-water fish, like goldfish and Koi fish, you can try elevating the water in the tank to between 70°F and 80°F. This will speed up the lifespan of the parasite and make it easier to eliminate.
Next, you want to add a treatment, such as malachite green or chelated copper, to kill the parasite. This is most likely to kill only the adult form of the parasite and not the eggs. Therefore, treatment will need to be repeated in five days. Your fish should be treated with a parasitic antibiotic for at least 10 to 14 days to heal any infection caused by the lesions. As always, it is recommended to remove any active carbon from your tank and filter prior to introducing any treatment to the tank.