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Thread: De-Worming Marine Fishes - Be A Super Pooper Snooper

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    Brittle Starfish

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    De-Worming Marine Fishes - Be A Super Pooper Snooper

    Most of our marine fishes come from the wild. It isnā€™t unusual for the fish to be carrying a worm infection in its intestinal track. It's been estimated that up to 30% of the fishes in the wild have some kind of intestinal worm infection. This number can considerably increase as fish are kept in holding tanks along transfer points, where they can share diseases and infections.

    In the wild, this is not much of an issue. The fish can find enough nutrition for its own needs and the needs of the worms. The worms of course are taking nutrients away from the fish. But if the intake of nutrients is enough, the fish is happy; the worms are happy. However, I the aquarist, am not happy. I want worms out.

    If the fishes are de-wormed (which is very easy to do) the aquarist does not have to worry about the worms taking nutrients away from their fishes.

    Unfortunately, it isn't easy to always tell if a fish has these worms. The symptoms of a worm infestation match other intestinal disorders. Generally though, the symptoms and observations of fishes with intestinal worms include:

    Strange feces (stringy, solid lengths, colored wrong, worms in feces, etc.) [NOTE: normal feces is grainy like fine sand -- usually lightly colored white to beige]
    'Strings' peeking out from the fish's vent (anus)
    Fish eats voraciously but doesn't seem to gain weight
    Fish eats but is losing weight, or seems to be wasting away
    Fish eats but is losing coloration and clear marking boundaries
    Fish eating habits have changed to picking at foods or it stops eating

    Obviously the above set of symptoms can apply to certain other conditions, however, the strange feces and worms peeking out from the fish's vent are the ones you'll come to rely upon most. You have to be a Super Pooper Snooper to sniff out the problem.

    I would like to cover in this post the three most common problems which are indicated by the above symptoms.

    The peculiar feces is usually a sign of an intestinal/internal problem.

    There are three (3) basic possibilities when it comes to an intestinal problem. This reference outlines the three nicely:
    http://www.petsforum.com/personal/tr...nfections.html

    Garlic is not a remedy. It has been suspected of helping in one case of internal parasites. The fish was fed solid chunks of it. Garlic juice does nothing in this case.

    Knowing how long you have had this fish would help in the diagnosis, as well as whether or not you use a quarantine system to verify the fish was healthy before you put it into your display tank. Since I don't know this information when I wrote this post, I have to assume either possibility and provide how to deal with each.

    Whatever the intestinal problem, the fish needs the best water quality and the best diet AND supplements added to its diet. Remember, it is eating for two or two thousand!

    If the fish is not eating then the only way to get medication to the intestinal track is to put the fish in a quarantine tank and treat the water with chemicals that will kill the internal condition. The drug Praziquantel (a.k.a. Droncit) will treat intestinal worms (see below for other suggestions), Maracyn Two for Saltwater fish will treat an internal bacterial infection and Metronizazole will treat dinoflagellate infections.

    To be conservative: I recommend either of two ways forward:
    1. If you've had your fish for several months or more: First check your source water for contaminants. Use only the best source water and make up a new batch of salt water. Now check that freshly made up water for quality/contaminants. If it passes, then adjust it for pH, temperature and salinity, mix some more, then do an 80% water change and see if the fish seems to 'perk up' (e.g., starts eating or eats more or swims around more in the open). If the fish definitely perks up then it maybe a combo of water conditions and bacteria. In this case, I'd treat the fish for an internal bacterial infection. Move fish to a hospital/quarantine tank and treat with Maracyn Two for Saltwater fishes. Begin with a double dose and continue double dosing what is recommended on the medicine insert. With proper nutrition and water quality, the fish may gain control and conquer the internal infection.

    2. If you recently acquired the fish: Treat the fish for worms (using Praziquantel or an alternate noted below) first and if no improvement, treat for dinoflagellates (using a medication containing Metronizazole). How to find these is given below -- keep reading!

    If the fish was fat and eating properly and being fed a proper diet (see above reference), with vitamin and fat supplements, it can live without eating for several weeks, providing all other environmental and water quality conditions are as they should be and the fish is not diseased. Praziquantel is best administered orally so if your fish isn't eating, try to get the fish eating.

    De-worm all newly acquired fishes with Praziquantel (or one of the given alternative drugs given below) right after acclimation. Acclimation suggestion:

    Dose Praziquantel (or an alternate drug) as instructed below. Wait 6 days and dose again. This treatment is over!


    ----------
    Medications:

    Maracyn Two for Saltwater fishes. Made by Mardel. Contains the antibiotic Minocycline with B complex vitamins (to stimulate appetite). Available at some LFSs, Petco, and on line.

    ------------------

    Praziquantel. Praziquantel may be hard to find. But it is available on-line along with other medications. Sources come and go, so just do a Google (or other) search for praziquantel for fish and find a source for the powder. I've found it on eBay, too!.

    Unfortunately, the quantity of Praziquantel you need to order as a minimum order may be more than you'll need in the next few years. It is administered at 23mg per pound of fish, in their normal food. Wait 6 days, then treat again. Verify the 'cure' by observing the faces form/shape. There is no need to move the fish to a quarantine/hospital tank. The fish can be treated wherever it is, so long as you are putting the medication into the food. Don't get crazy about determining the weight of your fish! Just guess. An average deck of playing cards is about 3 ounces, which is about 84 grams. So if your fish is about the size of a deck of playing cards, use 3 ounces. There are how many ounces per pound? Yes. 1 oz = 0.0625 pound. So 3 ounces would be 0.188 pounds. You'd need about 4.5 mg of the powder if our fish is the size of a deck of cards! Increase or decrease this proportionately.

    If you saw about 4.5 mg of powder on a clean glass surface, it would look to be a tiny pile about the size of a soaked-wet green lentil. This is as close as you need to get as far as being accurate. This amount can be put into one or a few pieces of food (spread out) as long as the fish eats all the pieces. OR if you're feeding this to a whole tank of fishes, spread it out so that each fish will get its proper amount. Don't need to give it more. So more is NOT better.

    Another de-wormer alternative is the product Pipezine. Look for products that contain the ingredient you want, only don't use products meant for dogs and cats.

    The aquarist is looking for a treatment that the fish will swallow (not a water treatment). However, if the fish isn't eating, the water treatment is necessary. Follow directions that comes with these alternate medications.


    Alternative Meds (overseas). I try to be on the look-out for meds available outside North America. I've recently come across some that are suitable for de-worming. Those aquarists in the UK and Europe may find Fenbendazole or Piperazine more readily available. They are dosed at 250mg/100g of food, fed for 7 to 10 days. Medications containing these will likely come with dosing instructions. Follow label instructions for administering these products.

    -----------------

    Metronizazole. Also found in several products. (See above). Follow the directions that come with the medication.



    BE THE SUPER POOPER SNOOPER. Watch your fishes' feces! (This is a hobby? )
    Last edited by leebca; 07-11-2012 at 01:31 PM. Reason: medicine sources and fish weight estimate
    LEE

  2. #2
    Brittle Starfish
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    LOL Lee not a hobby.
    Deb

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    Frogfish Aficionado
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    I never found the Jungle stuff - are you sure it's still being produced?

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    Anthias
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    Quote Originally Posted by leebca View Post
    [FONT="Arial"] [FONT="Arial"]There is a commercially prepared anti-parasitic pellet food available. It is made by Jungle. The product name is: Anti-Parasite Medicated Fish Food.
    Wish they would give the product a name that better described its use



    edit: Another great post Lee, thanks. As usual I have a question. You mention the use of piperazine as an alternative for those in the UK. I believe this is the same drug that is routinely used to treat round worms in dogs and cats here in the US. Is this as effective as the Praziquantel? I ask because I have piperazine that I use on my barn cats. I have been looking at ordering Praziquantel but have been holding off until I have enough stuff to order online to make the shipping cost reasonable. If piperazine is as effective can it also be dosed directly into a QT system to treat a new fish that might not yet be eating sufficiently to ensure it gets a full treatment, and if dosed directly in the water how much per gallon?.

    Also, I know when treating for worms in dogs and cats (I used to be a vet tech prior to deciding I actually wanted to make money) you err on the side of a higher dose of wormer as opposed to underdosing (to prevent the parasite forming a resistance to the medication). Does this also apply to treating marine fish?
    Last edited by krisfal; 09-18-2007 at 09:30 PM. Reason: getting serious
    Kris
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  5. #5
    Brittle Starfish

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    I'm not sure it's still being produced, but it is still being sold. Google for: Anti-Parasite Medicated Fish Food

    I found several hits, including:
    http://www.bigalsonline.com/BigAlsUS...tedfishfood1oz
    and it's on sale here:
    http://www.drsfostersmith.com/produc...m?pcatid=12788
    LEE

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    Frogfish Aficionado
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    Gotcha - yeah I googled '"Anti-parasitic pellets" Jungle' from your Medicine Cabinet post and didn't come up with much when I was stocking my fish cabinet previously. I ended up just going with the Prazi from PondRX (the guy there is super nice), but I'll get the pellets since the former is for water treatment.

  7. #7
    Brittle Starfish

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    Thanks. I hadn't gone back to update the Medicine Cabinet with this info yet. I have now done that.
    LEE

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    Brittle Starfish
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    For my small system the Jungle product probably would be best since all fish are in the display tank and I have limited options. Thank you very much for the help. Thank goodness it is not an immediate need. All my fish have been in the the tank for at least 8 months. Oops take that back the yellow watchman goby only 3 months.
    Deb

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  9. #9
    Copepod

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    Lee, the first online reference you cite has changed to this (I think):

    http://atj.net.au/marineaquaria/internalinfections.html




    cheers
    angie

  10. #10
    Amphipod

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    Lee,

    I could use a little help and clarification if you have a moment.

    I have some clown fish that I occasionally see poop a long white string about 8 times their body length. I was thinking they may possibly have worms, but I have several questions.

    You said in your article,
    "1. If you've had your fish for several months or more: ......... and see if the fish seems to 'perk up' (e.g., starts eating or eats more or swims around more in the open). "

    What if the fish already eats normal and swims in the open?

    Secondly this fish has been with another clown in a display tank for over a year now. Should both fish be treated. Also if I remove both fish, treat them, then place them back into the display could there be worms hiding out in the display they will pick up again?

    I don't know much about the life cycle of the different possible internal parasites, but I must ask about the risk of placing the fish directly back into the display. I may have missed it, but I didn't see any mention of leaving the display fishless. Is it your belief that if the water quality is ideal and the fish go through treatment they would be able to fight off any possible future infections? I suppose this would be a case by case bases as there are many possible infections.

    Another question I have to ask is in using any Anti-parasitic pellets or any other food in the display, I have read over and over again that there are no medications that are safe for use with inverts(in a reef tank). Is this the exception?

    Thanks for your time. I for one really appricate all the articles you have written and still regard your articles as the best information available to hobbyist on quarentening, disease, and such.


    Thanks again,
    Jon

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    Brittle Starfish

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    Thank you Jon for your kind words about my efforts. I try to help -- slowly but surely.

    With regards to your questions and concerns:

    If the fish is eating and swims in the open, still do the large water change to see if its behavior changes any. It is true that, most often, a sick fish will be reclusive, shy, or however you might evaluate its reluctance to swim into the open. But there can be other signs which the hobbyist, who might not be familiar with the behavior of a totally healthy fish, might not 'see.' The water change will show the needed to see 'difference.'

    Just to be clear, the medicated food treatment doesn't require that the fish need moving into a quarantine tank. If the medicine is administered encased in food, or if the medicine is medicated food (which are the preferred types to use in this case) the fish don't need to be moved to isolation.

    The feeding of medicated foods means that all fish should eat it. If one or more fishes in the group don't like a particular food, then medicate their favorite to be sure they are treated along with the others, at the same time.

    The majority of these worms don't live outside the fish's intestinal track, but they do release eggs and reproductive 'bits' through the fecal matter that finds its way into other fish. The treatment regime is designed so that it takes care of encounters within the next few days of these eggs or 'bits.' This is something you don't have to be concerned with. There are a few exceptions, but the lack of being common or likely experienced by the hobbyist is extremely remote. Remote primarily because those kinds of intestinal parasites require another marine life form (special worms, snails, etc.) to complete their life cycle and such life isn't found in the home aquarium.

    The 'higher forms' of inverts (snails, crabs, etc.) should not be adversely affected, however, some lower forms of marine life forms may be adversely affected (such as bristle worms, substrate worms, etc.). Best to collect up (remove) uneaten medicated foods. Still such foods will not likely kill them all (unless there is significant overfeeding) and these life forms are usually prolific -- that is they will fairly quickly replace their lost relatives.


    LEE

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    Sea Urchin
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    Please can some tell me how I would treat my Target Mandarin for intestinal parasites.
    I've had him for 12 weeks now. Captive bread and raised on Nutramar Ova/NLS Pellets. However for me all he will eat thus far are Hikari Blood worms, 4-5 of them a day. Target fed
    Well he's gotten much thinner. His poop looks just like the blood worms he's eating.
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    Brittle Starfish

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    Those number of worms per day is, essentially, a non-eating fish. Best to treat the whole tank with the medication.

    It's a shame to see the fish raised on lousy food. Our marine fishes don't digest wheat and wheat products, which pellets usually use as a binding agent. It could be that, after a lifetime of such bad food, the intestinal track of the fish is abnormal and perhaps partially blocked/clogged. This would result is poor digestion.

    Treat the entire tank water for intestinal parasites AND at the same time, treat the fish with Maracyn Two for Saltwater fishes, using double the recommended dose you read on the medication instructions. I hope this will all be in time to save the life of your fish. Good luck!
    LEE

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    Sea Urchin
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    Quote Originally Posted by leebca View Post
    Those number of worms per day is, essentially, a non-eating fish. Best to treat the whole tank with the medication.It's a shame to see the fish raised on lousy food. Our marine fishes don't digest wheat and wheat products, which pellets usually use as a binding agent. It could be that, after a lifetime of such bad food, the intestinal track of the fish is abnormal and perhaps partially blocked/clogged. This would result is poor digestion.Treat the entire tank water for intestinal parasites AND at the same time, treat the fish with Maracyn Two for Saltwater fishes, using double the recommended dose you read on the medication instructions. I hope this will all be in time to save the life of your fish. Good luck!
    Are you saying that the blood worms are bad for him also? What do you recommend I treat the entire tank with?
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    Brittle Starfish

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    My comment about the food was the food the fish was raised on. In the situation this fish is in (and you are in) getting the fish to eat anything is a good idea. However, for the record, blood worms are not part of any marine fish's diet. Blood worms are not found in the ocean or seas. Their nutritional value is to freshwater fishes. Try getting this fish to eat ocean/sea pods. Find frozen sea plankton and krill and chop it into sizes suitable for your fish, if chopping in needed. Also, hatch brine shrimp eggs and feed newly hatched brine shrimp (but be sure NOT to feed it the shells or unhatched eggs). Target feeding may be something you will have to do for this fish for a long time, until it is properly trained to eat prepared foods. If the fish will be put in a community tank, target feeding may be required for its entire life, to be sure it gets food.

    At your LFS and on the Internet there are several medications to choose from. I avoid recommending anyone in particular. You can use one that contains Praziquantel or you can obtain and use Praziquantel itself. There are others. Search and read information on the product. Follow the instructions that come with the medication.
    LEE

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