Velvet: Treating velvet

Q&A about diseases and their cure

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Velvet: Treating velvet

Post by Pam Chin » Tue Dec 02, 2003 1:22 pm

Dear Pam,

I have been an avid follower of your regular column for a while now and have been impressed with how insightful and helpful you have been to others in the past. Sadly, it is my turn to ask a question about a subject which, like many fish keepers, makes my blood pressure rise and reduces me to a flailing moron in no time at all. The subject I am speaking of is fish disease, and more specifically in my case, velvet disease.

I have not had problems with diseases in any of my tanks for years, but after introducing about 10 tetras into a 132 liters (35 gallon) tank with a few young "Cichlasoma" salvini and other non-Cichlids including small bala sharks, clown loaches and a pleco, all heck broke loose. The tetras started disappearing quicker than I could keep track, and then before I knew it, just about every fish in the tank was showing signs of the dreaded velvet disease -- a gray film over most of the fish's body, with areas where tiny white spots could be seen. (As a Cichlid lover I feel I should point out that the Cichlids never showed any symptoms.)

I am hoping that you could set the record straight for me because there is so much misinformation out there about diseases and reasonable cures. After doing some reading and asking fish store owners I have a laundry list of about 50 ideas but many of these appear to contradict common sense or even themselves in some cases. Can you give some information about what velvet disease is (Protozoan? Bacterial? Poor oral hygiene?), what causes it to run amok (Temperature? Poor nitrogen cycle management? Evil tetras infecting my poor unsuspecting fishes?), how to get rid of it (Any recommended meds for this?), and most important how to prevent it from ever happening again. Quarantining new fish and treating with something before introducing them to an established tank? Never buying tetras again? Explosives?

Another issue is that I use the same buckets for water changes on each of my tanks, so should I give in to paranoia and treat the fish in other tanks which are not showing symptoms? Or does the added stress of medicating a tank where no symptoms are present outweigh the potential advantages? Or is this disease not even communicable in this way? Thanks in advance for your help!

Keith

Pam Chin
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Post by Pam Chin » Tue Dec 02, 2003 1:22 pm

Hi Keith,

Thanks for the kind words, I am glad you enjoy Ask Pam!

The dreaded velvet is the parasite; oodinium. It was more than likely introduced into your tank, by the tetras. It is a hard lesson learned, and don't feel alone, because it has happened to all of us. When everything is going great with our tanks, we forget to be careful, and quarantine our new fish, I have done it many times. Who wants to wait two weeks, I bought the fish today, I want to see it in the tank today. I think they look okay, and I know my tank is healthy, so what is the harm...

This parasite attacks the skin of the fish, and it causes deterioration to the slime coat, that is vital in keeping your fish healthy. If not stopped, it multiplies rapidly and the gills are usually the next place it shows up. It is highly contagious, since it becomes water borne. This means you can pass it to your other tanks, even by just sticking your hand in one tank and then sticking it in the next. Nets are bad, and buckets can be culprits too. If you do have it in a tank, you want to be sure you don't contaminate your other tanks. When this nasty parasite attacks the skin of your fish, and then as it develops it eventually drops off the fish and falls to the bottom of the tank, where it appears to be dead, but actually it is going to hatch out a fresh oodinium. So, you get in this vicious cycle with it. That is why it is suggested that you treat the tank again, to kill any that may have not yet developed, and if not retreated it will re-infect your fish again.

It is said that it thrives in cooler temperatures and can often be confused with ich, so I like to raise up the temperature, maybe even to 80+ degrees, and also I like to add salt, 2 tablespoons per 38 liters (10 gallons) of water, any salt is okay, even table salt.

You want to treat it with a medicine that kills parasites, such as: Odinex or Maracide. Some treat it like they do ich, and with ich medicines. I have always thought I needed something with more of a kick than ich medicine. Follow the directions on what ever you decide to use. Normally, you add it to your tank and repeat the treatment again in about 3 days. Then remember to do another treatment in about 10 days, to get anymore that develop. Also, read the label regarding treating scaleless fish such as clown loaches and catfishes if you have them in your tank that you are treating, sometimes you can only use half doses, and so it might take a bit longer to whip it.

I am not the best fish doctor, and have found that preventative maintenance is the only way to go for me. This includes quarantining your new additions for a minimum of two weeks, and if they are wild, you better make it a four to six weeks. You need to do frequent and large water changes, this will keep most of the bad stuff out of your tanks. I wouldn't treat the other tanks until I knew for sure they were infected. Really observe the fish in the other tanks, and you will be able to see it sooner, if you have it.

White vinegar is a great sterilizer, you can make a net soak, and clean your buckets with it too. I would say 1 part vinegar, to 6 - 8 parts water. Some people use Clorox too, of course, you highly dilute that also.

And you call yourself a Cichlid Lover..... what the heck were you doing with Tetras anyway??
Cichlid Power!
Pam

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