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White Spot Disease

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White Spot (Ichthyophthirius)
Nate Jamieson

One of the most common diseases encountered by tropical fish
hobbyists, is the common parasite known as "ick" or "ich", for
ichthyophthirius. In most cases, white spots on a fish's scales
are the first sign noticed, although it's possible fish may begin
rubbing themselves against objects as well, since it's a very
irritating condition.

In severe cases, the fish may even have a gray slimy appearance
to their body. By the time obvious symptoms develop, your tank
would be well-infested. In the initial stage, the parasite will
burrow under the fish's scales and skin, where it lingers,
feeding off the skin cells and blood of its host until it's fully

The Ich then breaks through the skin of the fish and falls off
into the water, landing on the substrate where it forms a cyst,
and begins to multiply, producing up to 1,000 new parasites. The
entire life cycle can take as little as 4-6 days.

Because the most vulnerable stage is when they are free swimming,
it will be necessary to treat the entire tank, because once a
parasite has started to replicate, the tank is already
contaminated. You can however, remove severely infected fish to a
hospital tank for some extra, topical treatments to try and help
it recover, and to prevent secondary infections.

The home tank should be treated by raising the temperature four
degrees, and adding a small amount of aquarium salt. Any
inhabitants that can't tolerate the salt, should be moved to
their own, separate tank until the original one is free of
parasites. Medications for adding to the water are available at
your fish supply store. Remember that because of their life
cycle, and needing to treat the free swimming stage, you will
need to medicate the tank every few days, and the entire course
of treatment can take up to three weeks.

Nate Jamieson
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