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Ich Disease Causes Skin Infection in Fish

Raising tropical fish or goldfish in an aquarium or tank at home is a very pleasant hobby. Watching the fish swim in their fishbowl has been discovered to be a soothing and healthful way to relax. But one day you may notice white bumps on your pretty goldfish. Unfortunately, this is one of the first signs of an Ich parasite infestation. Ich is a treatable disease, especially if it is caught and treated early.

The parasite Ichthyophthirius multifiliis (Ich) causes the Ich disease in freshwater fish. This unsightly and dangerous fish disease can kill fish fast, and in large numbers. The parasite also gives its name to the disease. Ich is also known as the white spot disease. This name fits well, because fish afflicted with the disease may have white specks on their skin. This is because Ich is a skin infection in fish. Fish with Ich look as though they had been sprinkled with salt, or have white fur growing on their scales. The disease typically affects fish in aquariums.

Ichthyophthirius multifiliis when converted to English means “fish louse with many children.” This title is quite apt, as each Ich parasite can give rise to over a thousand offspring. No wonder an aquarium full of fish may seem perfectly fine one day, and have a severe Ich infection the next. The disease is quite unsightly. Although Ich is only a skin infection in fish, it may become fatal for them. The infection can become deadly when ill health due to poor diet and improper habitat also co-exists, making the poor fish’s life miserable or putting its life in jeopardy.

The symptoms of the Ich syndrome include small white sand-like specks on the skin of fish. Small outbreaks go unnoticed, but the severe form is easy to spot. The parasite burrows its way inside the skin of fish and feeds on blood and dead cells. White cysts on the body of the fish result due to the burrowing. The resultant irritation causes the skin of fish to swell. The fish may react in the same fashion as humans do after a mosquito bite. Larger infestations of Ich can look furry or fuzzy. One goldfish I saw looked like he had a moustache. This fish was treated and survived to live a long, Ich-free life, thankfully.

Ich has other symptoms besides the white spots. Other Ich symptoms include scratching of or rubbing of the fish’s skin against rocks and gravel. When in an advanced stage, bloody streaks, redness, or tiredness in fish are also found on the fish. These last three symptoms are important warning signs that something must be done to cure the poor fish of the Ich parasite, and be done quickly to save its life and prevent further suffering.

The blood-filled Ich parasite, after feasting on the fish for several days, turns into a trophozoite. It burrows out of the fish and sinks to the bottom of the tank. The trophozoite then first creates a protective cocoon around itself made of a jelly-like soft substance. The next event in the trophozoite’s life is to reproduces into tomites. Tomites are hundreds of baby parasites. The tomites soon become hungry, break open the cocoon and come out into the water. They next begin to look for food.

The tomites then feast on whatever is still left in the fish to provide food for them. During the next three days, the tomites swim in the water. These three days are the optimum time to medicate the water. During the subsequent three days only, when they are still swimming in the water, are they vulnerable to medication. This opportunity to kill the swimming tomites and save the fish’s life should not be lost. After these parasites burrow into the skin of fish, they would be safe from the action of medication. Medication consists of chemicals injected into the tank water. Follow dosing instructions on the medication container to cure your aquarium of Ich-causing tomites and make it safe for your fish.

Treatment comes in several phases or steps. One of the first steps in curing your aquarium and fish of Ich includes raising the temperature of water in the tank. Next, you will need to apply medication for approximately ten to fourteen days. If you have scaleless fish you will need to reduce medication, following the instructions on the medication’s container to treat these fish appropriately. Another step in killing the Ich parasite also involves changing the water in the tank between two treatment stages. Also, carbon filtration needs to be discontinued during the period of the treatment. The cycle of treatment takes a fortnight, or 10 days, from beginning until completion.

Treatment must be according to the medication’s directions. You must be persistent in treating the water until all parasites are completely killed. Keep a close eye on the fish during treatment as well as when treatment is concluded. Due attention is also required to observe if problems such as secondary infections are visible on the skin of fish.

Medications that prove effective against Ich disease include malachite green, quinine hydrochloride, methylene blue and mepracrine hydrochloride. Most of these medications are available at your local pet store or in your local pet department and are easy to use. Treatment is usually successful, and soon your fish and aquarium will be healthy and beautiful once again.

You can prevent an Ich infestation in your fish and aquarium by following some basic rules to create a proper habitat in your fish tank. New fish should be quarantined for at least two weeks before adding them to the community tank. Plants can carry Ich, and therefore should be treated for it before being added to the general fish tank community. Get information from your pet store or library on maintaining optimal quality fish tank water. And feed your freshwater fish a high quality diet. In that way, they will be very healthy and be better able to fight any diseases that might try to attack them.