Monday, 7 September 2009

Fighting ich

There are three places to buy freshwater aquarium fish in this town - Petsmart, Petco, and a local fish store. The LFS has friendly people and a much wider selection of fish. Unfortunately, they don't seem to quarantine their fish very well. I've had three ich outbreaks, and I believe that all of them have come from that store. Now, obvioulsy, I should have learned my lesson and made sure I quarantine all my new purchases. And for the most part, I've learned that lesson.

I recently bought a group of Otocinclus for my main tank. Many people consider them delicate fish which are hard to keep alive. My experience has been just the opposite - they strike me as almost bulletproof, great survivors. From what I've read, the main 'danger' period is just when they are introduced, because they are often very stressed in transit. Bearing that in mind, I decided to add them directly to my main tank. They seem to have settled in very nicely.

More recently I bought a group of fish from the LFS - corys, rummynose tetras, and three kuhli loaches. Given the difficulty in catching and moving kuhli loaches, I decided to take the chance and introduce them directly into my main tank. And the fun ensued.

Within a few days there were white spots on the rummynoses. I had successfully eradicated ich with salt and heat in the past, but the salt took a toll of some of my plants. I decided to try something different - a UV steriliser. When I went to the petstore, they were out of the 9V one I had my eye on, but they still had the 24V model. Now 9V sterilisers are recommended for tanks up to about 50 gallons (mine is 55), while 24V models are for tanks up to about 125 gallons. Wasn't too worried, since more power is probably better than less when trying something experimental. After I bought it, I poked around the web to see what people said about that approach. While people liked it for saltwater ich, there was a good deal of skepticism about its effectiveness for freshwater systems.

The next morning I looked at my fish and noticed that a lot of them had ich, far more than two days prior. I decided to play it safe and up the temperature. Then I hit the scientific literature.

Hitting the literature is often frustrating as an aquarist, since few papers are published on tropical aquarium fish. Fortunately, ich is a major problem for commercial aquaculturists. More so, in fact, in temperate than tropical conditions. From what I read, I realised that (a) a UV steriliser would probably do that job, and (b) heat alone would probably work as well.

Within two days of turning up the heat (three days of adding the UV steriliser) my fish were spot-free. It may be too early to say with certainty, but I feel pretty confident that it worked. And worked very well.

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