People are waking up to the therapeutic health benefits of pets including aquarium fish. Pets offer unconditional love and in today’s world with nuclear families and urban lifestyle these aquariums give the much needed relaxation and a little touch of nature into our living rooms. But these harmless creatures go through a lot of health issues like us, humans. One such issue is a parasitic infestation called the FLUKES.
1. What causes flukes in fish?
Body Flukes consist of tiny worm-like parasites which are very difficult to spot without a microscope. They can get into the skin, gills, and other body parts of the fish. They are also known as Gill Flukes and Skin Flukes. Introduced into aquariums by infected fish or in some cases even plants, which carry the eggs or the parasite itself, young anchor worms are small crustaceans that burrow into the fish’s skin and enter the muscles. Here they begin to develop and release eggs before they die—leaving behind damage, which can become infected. Undesirable environmental conditions—including poor water conditions,( High ammonia or nitrate levels, low oxygen levels, improper temperature or a high or low pH can cause stress. If you have a saltwater tank, incorrect salt levels could also induce stress)
Overcrowding or stress by incompatible species—creates conditions that can lead to destructive outbreaks. Fish often feel cramped if they live with too many other fish or the wrong fish. It also affects water quality and the combativeness of the fish apart from bringing in contagious parasites. Avoiding stressful conditions is a key to prevention, but once an outbreak occurs, prompt treatment is critical. Improper diet: improper diet and disturbances of a fish’s habitat such as banging or loud noises can cause stress. Other factors: In addition to the above, there are other factors that lead to stress. One of these is the presence of added chemicals or medications in the fish’s tank.
2. What are the symptoms of flukes in fish?
Common symptoms include
• Affected fish scratching against everything,
• Tiny red spots or yellow dusting or Reddened skin
• Changes in slime coat, with a mucus layer covering gills or body.
• Clamped fins or sore and ulcers(from scratching).
• Gill fluke symptoms are breathlessness and gasping for breath at the surface,(due to lack of oxygen and infected and irritated gills).
• Gills moving rapidly
• Chewed on or eaten-away gills or fins.
• Pale fish with drooping fins, rapid respiration and/or hollow bellies indicate more extensive infestation.
3. How do you tell if your fish is stressed?
Just like humans, fish often have to cope with stress and its complications. Whether it is new surroundings, untidy homes or strained relationships, stress in fish can lead to serious health complications. The fish have to be observed for any of these signs of stress.
4. Are flukes contagious?
Unlike other health problems in fish, Flukes can infect a healthy fish. Bad environmental conditions such as poor water quality, overcrowding, high ammonia, and stress create conditions that can lead to outbreaks. If left untreated, flukes will kill your fish by destroying its gills. If one of your fish is infected with this parasite it's a high chance the entire tank may house future generations of Flukes.
5. How are flukes treated?
Praziquatel(Sources: Pet Mountain, PondRx, Drs Foster and Smith). Vacuum well. Use slightly rounded teaspoon per 20 gallons. Follow this schedule when treating flukes with API Melafix and Aquarium salt
• Day 3 to 5 - do nothing
• Day 8 - normal water change with vacuuming
• Day 35 - normal water change, add carbon, treatment is complete!
Other treatments are also quite as good. You can use one of these: PP(Potassium Permanganate), Fluketabs, QuickCure, Formalin, Health Guard, Dromcit. A repeated treatment is also needed. Egg and larvae are still living in your tank even if you have taken care of its mother. The 2nd treatment should occur 4 days after the 1st, and the 3rd - 4 days after the 2nd. Do not overdose your tank with these treatments. Also read instructions carefully.
Treatment: Common methods include physically removing the parasite and cleaning the wound with an antiseptic like iodine. Also common is bathing freshwater fish in a seawater bath (35ppt) for about 5 minutes for multiple days until the parasite falls off. Avoiding stress is key.