Shotgun Approach to Fish Diseases.

12.10. The Shotgun Approach

Many times, fish keepers get a pathogen in their aquarium which defies diagnosis. They are doing everything right and fish are still dying. Their water is well-filtered and crystal clear. There are no bacteria in the water column. Their aeration is great. And yet their fish are dying with no apparent symptoms.

This is best treated with what is known as a “shotgun” approach. There are four treatable pathogens that are the “most likely suspects” in “slow fish deaths” in an aquarium. The treatable pathogens are flatworms (flukes and tapeworms), nematodes (capillaria and camallanus), “internal parasites” (hexamita) and bacteria (most commonly columnaris and aeromonas).

It should be noted that the most common cause of “slow fish deaths”, namely “fish TB” (environmental mycobacteriosis) has no effective medication and is best treated by improving the biofiltration and adding UV sterilization.

Geophagus camopiensis, Rio Aporema
Geophagus camopiensis, Rio Aporema

Special Medicated Fish Food

For the “shotgun” approach make two special foods. Buy over the internet:

  • Fenbendazole (for nematode worms)
  • PraziPro (praziquantel for flukes and tapeworms)
  • Maracyn 2 (antibiotic for bacteria)
  • SeaChem MetroPlex (metronidazole for “internal parasites”, hexamita)

Then make two different medicated foods via the same method. Mix one food with the Bendazole and the PraziPro. Mix the other food with the Maracyn 2 and the Metroplex.

Heat 1/4 cup water (two ounces or 58 milliliters, not a lot) in the microwave. Then blend seven grams of plain animal-derived gelatin (Knox gelatin, one packet) into the hot solution with vigorous stirring. Take two tablespoons of dry commercial fish food (pellets or flakes) and mix it with just a little of the hot water/ gelatin mixture. Add hot water/gelatin until you get a paste-like consistency. If it gets too watery just add more food. To get gel food to float simply mix in a little whipped cream at this point.

Taeniolethrinops furcicauda
Taeniolethrinops furcicauda

Then add just a “smidgen” (roughly 1/16 teaspoon, a 1% to 2% addition) of medication to the mud. If you are using more than one medication mix the medications together, then use just a “smidgen” of the mixture. If you are using a packet of medication, take just a “smidgen” of the packet’s contents. Mix and mash the whole mass thoroughly.  Spread it out into a pancake about 1/8th inch (3 mm) thick on a plastic film or a plate. Then put in the refrigerator. If you plan on keeping it for more than two weeks put it in a small plastic bag and freeze.

Feed the fenbendazole and the praziquantel once every two weeks for three months. Feed the antibiotic and metronidazole every day as a steady diet for ten days. Note while the fish won’t eat it like they normally do, they typically will eat some if you just leave it in the tank.

All four medications treat only relatively narrow classes of organisms. This is opposed to things such as disinfectants which kill any living cell they can penetrate.  This makes these medications very safe. All four are also approved by the FDA internally in humans. While not a 100% guarantee, this would indicate they are probably safe in fish.

Parachromis Dovii Hybrid
Parachromis Dovii Hybrid

Other Medications Which Will Work

Each of the four drugs above has some alternatives and options:

  • Fenbendazole  is available as Safeguard for dogs or several livestock dewormers. An alternative medication is Levamisole which is available on Amazon, subaquaria .com and Valleyvet .com. Levamisole can also be purchased as Agrilabs Prohibit Soluble Drench Powder and Durvet Levamed Soluble Drench Powder Dewormer. Other medications supposedly effective against roundworms are Pyrantel Pamoate, Flubendazole (Kusuri Wormer Plus) and Piperazine.
  • Praziquantel can be purchased as PraziPro, Aquascape praziquantel, Prazi-Power, Prazi-Cure and Aqua-Prazi.
  • Broad-spectrum antibiotics available in the US include Midland Vet Service Aqua-Mox, SeaChem KanaPlex, VetDepot Amoxicillin, Fishbiotic Ampicillin, Mardel Maracyn 2.
  • Metronidazole, alias metro’ is available in SeaChem MetroPlex and can be simply mixed into the food. Or it can come in premixed food medication such as Hikari Metro Plus food or New Life Spectrum Hex-Shield food.

In API General Cure, metronidazole is combined with praziquantel. Ron’s cichlid’s has an excellent medicated food that combines some of the above medications. It appears Ron’s food has metronidazole, praziquantel, levamisole, sulfathiazole, neomycin sulfate, kanamycin and nitrofurantoin. It does not appear to have fenbendazole. This is a reasonably priced food that covers almost all of the available bases.

Apistogramma borellii
Apistogramma borellii

Startpage Aquariumscience

Source: – David Bogert

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