How do fish get ich disease?
If you own fish, you’ve probably dealt with or at least heard of “ich” or White Spot Disease, it is a disease caused by one of the most common parasites in aquariums, Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. Left untreated, infected fish will die. To save your fish and keep your tank healthy, you must understand what ich is, know how to prevent it, learn how to recognize it, and be prepared to treat your fish if it occurs.
What is Ichthyophthirius multifiliis?
It’s the largest protozoan parasite to affect fish. If you introduce new fish or plants to your tank, there’s a chance you’re also introducing the ich parasite. Poor water quality increases the odds of spreading the infection.
The parasite lives in the host fish’s skin and gills, killing and then consuming the cells that surround it. When the Ichthyophthirius multifiliis matures, it leaves the fish and attaches itself to another object, such as a plant or rock. Once there, it forms a cocoon and produces new parasites that seek out and infect new hosts.
How do you prevent ich infections?
Quarantine any new fish before adding them to your tank. If the new fish has ich, you’ll be able to treat it before it infects your other fish. Three to four weeks should be enough time for an Ichthyophthirius multifiliis infestation to manifest and be treated. If you’re unable to wait that long, at least allow three days to pass before adding your new fish to the tank.
How do you spot a fish with ich?
Ich causes white spots to form on a fish’s skin. The gills can show signs of irritation that include paleness and swelling. Your fish’s behavior can also change—it may become lethargic and stop eating. In some cases, the fish with ich becomes irritable, chasing and nipping other fish in the tank.
How do you treat ich?
Your local pet or aquarium store should have various ich treatments. Potassium permanganate and copper sulfate are two of the most common. Carefully read the descriptions and directions for each chemical before choosing one. Don’t hesitate to ask the store employees for help. If you describe your tank and the types of fish you have, a knowledgeable employee should be able to give you advice on the best treatment option.
Before and after you add the chemical treatment to your tank, give your freshwater fish a salt dip. Place aquarium or rock salt in a holding container, using one to three teaspoons per gallon of water. Make sure the temperature and pH of the holding container match the temperature and pH of your main tank. Allow your fish to swim in the salt dip for about five minutes. Keep a close eye on your fish and remove it from the dip immediately if it shows signs of distress.