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Uncontrolable ICH

6279 Views 31 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  JennM
Hello all, This is my first post. I've been reading along for some time now and this is the first time I really needed some help. I've been fighting infection, both ich and velvet for about 4.5-5 weeks now, and I'm losing. I have a 72 bow with a XP3 canister, a prism skimmer, A 9w double helix, 135 lbs of live rock, and 70 lbs of live sand. Livestock includes a snowflake eel, huma trigger, fiji blue spot puffer, yellow tang, marroon clown, and two tank raised clowns(plus snails and crabs). I've been using Kent rx-p, Melafix, Poly-Ox, Coral Vital, and Garlic Guard. My tank is about 3 months old and water quality is good. I do regular water changes(5-10 gallons per week). I don't know what else to do and fustration is setting in. Any help would be appreciated.
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drop your salinity down slowly to 1.015 or even 1.012 as well as keep you temp over 80 degrees. Ich will cycle faster at the higher temp.

That and water changes @ 25% will take care of ICH

If you have a mixed tank. You are better off setting up a treatment tank. Treat fish in one tank and let the invertes stay in the display tank without fish for 6-8 weeks. If there is no fish flesh for the free swimming stage of ich it will eventually die. 6-8 weeks will take care of any ich you have in the display tank.
Hyposalinity is the safest and most effective treatment for ich. However it is not safe for invert or live rock. The required salinity is 16ppt or less. I recommend 14ppt which translates to a specific gravity of 1.009 depending on the water temperature. I doubt water changes will cure it. Leaving the display fishless for 30 days while the fish are treated in another tank is usually long enough. You need a very accurate hydrometer or refractometer to measure the salinity dail. The pH and alk should be tested daily during treatment. Add a buffer as needed.
Terry B
My tank had an ICH problem when it was newer also. The maroon clowns were the only 2 not infected (probably because of their protective anemone). Looking back, I had too many fish for a small tank anyway, but the others died. A treatment tank seems to me to be the best option. Then you can treat the fish with copper and let the ICH cycle out of the tank by the low salinity and higher temps.

Sorry for stating the obvious (it wasn't obvious to me at the time)...but despite what the LFS or anyone else might tell you...DO NOT ADD ANYTHING WITH COPPER to the display tank.

Good luck
First off, Fatcat, WELCOME to TRT!!! :dance:

I'm about to post a lot of thoughts that jumped right out at me when I read your post. Please "hear" me in the right context -- I wish only to be helpful, and not at all hurtful toward you and your livestock, but I think I need to be a bit ticked off at whoever is selling you all this stuff...

Tank has been running 3 months and it's fairly heavily stocked with big eaters and big poopers - that's Red Flag #1. Suggestion: SLOW DOWN. Nothing good ever happens fast in a marine tank.

Water quality you described as "good".... that always sends up my Red Flag #2. Please list all your parameters, Specific Gravity, Temperature, pH, Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate (and any others if you test for them!) I've had people say "good' with pristine water, and some who think that a "little" ammonia is "ok".... so please, let's either rule in or out, your water quality as a factor.

Red Flag #3 - all those medications! Which sends up Red Flag #4 -- where the heck are you shopping, and why are they selling you all those fish so fast, and all those meds???? I won't even "go there" about using a canister filter on a marine tank.... Poly-Ox is meant to help rid the tank of cyanobacteria and other organics, so it's not going to help with an Ich problem, and if used incorrectly it can mess with the balance of your system. Rx-P is a pepper-based compound. As much as I love Kent, I don't bother using this. Melafix is a tea-tree oil and can be useful for some bacterial or fungal infections, but the jury is really still out on its overall effectiveness, in my opinion.

In order to curb the Ich, you must first figure out what's causing it. There is much debate about whether or not the Ich parasite is present in all systems - I'll leave that debate for another thread, but I personally believe that it is present in all systems, so on the basis of that notion, here are my thoughts....

Since I *believe* that Ich is present in all systems, the question remains, what is it that causes outbreaks? There are several possible answers to this, and you must be a detective.

Stress - adding a new fish to the aquarium is always stressful for the new addition, and the existing ones. Doing this by careful acclimation, gentle handling and leaving lights off for the rest of the day are a few ways to make this as low-stress as possible.

Another stressor - water quality... ammonia, nitrite, high nitrate, low or fluctuation pH (I will return to that one), fluctuations in temperature -- all of these can stress the fish, and render them vulnerable to infestation.

You need to figure out what it is that is wearing down the fishes' immune systems to the point that they cannot resist the Ich parasite. Fix the problem, find the cure, or at least the means to keep the parasite at bay indefinitely.

When you check your pH and temperature, do it in the morning before the lights come on. Then do it again in the middle of your photoperiod (Lights should be on a timer, BTW -- makes life better for all), and then test pH and temperature at the end of the photoperiod before the lights go off.

Any major variance, say more than 2 degrees in temp and more than 0.2 pH, can be stressors on the fish. This can be fixed by using pH buffer in your water, and adjusting your heater to within a degree of the warmest temp of your tank (provided that your tank isn't getting too hot during the day -- then a chiller might be in order...).

We fortify our fish food with garlic - it does seem to stimulate feeding and I believe it boosts the immune systems of the fish, and therefore they are better able to fend off parasites. Otherwise I'd stop putting all that junk in the display.

Yes, hyposalinity works too, but I prefer to use a freshwater dip for that - OR a longer course of hyposalinity in a treatment tank.

Hope this helps.

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fatcat9798 said:
Livestock includes a snowflake eel, huma trigger, fiji blue spot puffer, yellow tang, marroon clown, and two tank raised clowns(plus snails and crabs).
One other thing that sunk in well after the fact (old age or summink is creeping up on me...)

The clowns, crabs and snails will eventually become meals for the eel, puffer and trigger.

Also, it's generally not a good idea to mix clown species in a tank, especially with a maroon, they get HUGE and they can be mean. When you refer to "tank raised clowns" I'm guessing you mean ocellaris clowns ("Nemo")...

I'd never sell that combination of fish & inverts to anybody :(

Welcome Fatcat!

I'm sorry to hear you are having these problems, and EVERYTHING Jenn has told you is absolutely true and excellent info/advice.

As for ich being in the system, I'll share this recent experience.

We have a minireef, set up nearly 5 years now. Lots of LR and sand bed, and a decent amount of caleurpa also grows in there. It was home for over 4 yrs to a Watchman Goby and a Pistol Shrimp. They passed away before Christmas last winter. The Goby never had ich.

The tank has been "fishless" since mid-December. There are several corals and a few hermits and snails in it. Just three weeks ago we got a very healthy-looking small Lemon Peel Angel for the tank. We spent about 3 hrs acclimating the fish, making sure salinity and pH and Temp were the same. I might add the parameters of the water in this tank *are* pristine - 0 everything.
It also had a 25% water change a few days prior to getting the fish.

The fish entered the tank and ate the same day. The next day he was pretty well covered with ich and staying in one corner of the tank, acting fine, but not exploring anything. The ich was worse the next day. He was pretty well covered all over with it. This has happened to us before with certain "ich magnets" such as our Orbic Batfish and Yellow Tang, and they recovered nicely without treatment. By the 4th or so day, the Ich was disappearing, and shortly after that the fish was exploring and nibbling at the caleurpa on the rocks, and behaving like a normal inquisitive Angel. There's no sign of Ich now.

5 yrs ago I would try all sorts of things to treat Ich. None worked, imo. The money spent on the pepper stuff was wasted. The freshwater dips didn't work. I didn't lower tank salinity b/c of the inverts and such. We put the batfish in a hospital tank and that stressed him out so much we nearly lost him. We put him back in the 125G and he recovered and eventually grew about 10-11" tall and we gave him to Inland Aquatics.

I don't treat for Ich anymore. Actually, we haven't added a new fish to the established reef or fish only tank in so long, I can't remember, and we haven't had an outbreak of ich in at least as long.

There was nothing in this minireef to give this new fish Ich. In fact, I can't recall a fish ever having Ich in that tank.

So, it's either "everywhere", like the herpes cold sore for humans, and stress brings it on, or --- I have no other answer. It's in the fish, imo, and the stress brings it out.

I do think it's harder to deal with when you have multiple fish with an illness as opposed to just one. Takes longer to get rid of, and sometimes you don't win. If you are fighting velvet, there are meds for that, but we lost a pair of Percs to velvet almost 5 yrs tank, fish just arrived in LFS (didn't know about reef shops back then) we treated in sep. tank for Velvet and everything else we though it might be, and lost both fish within 4 days of purchase. $45 down the drain, and we started reading, asking questions, and learning....and majorly slowing down.

And yes, your eel will eat your cleanup crew, and then your nitrates will skyrocket. Again, imo, unless you have a refugium, they [nitrates] will not come down w/o cleanup crew and with the bioload you have. In fact, he'll eat what fits in his as he grows, he'll widen his variety. Eels are also notorious escape artists and wind up dead and dried on the floor, or stuck in a pump, plugging and fowling your system, so be sure to make it "eel-safe" and you'll do fine with him.

Your maroon, most likely, will eventually harass your other two clowns to death.

One last word of advice and caution -- please don't buy an anemone for your clowns. The clowns don't need one and it will most likely die. That's another thread, but I had to at least give you a heads-up.

I hope all your fish make it ~ and welcome again to the friendliest Reef Community in the world! :dance:

~ Shirley :)
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Hey Shirley, playing devil's advocate for a minute, the lemonpeel could have had ich when you got him, he just wasn't showing symptoms, and that's what introduced it to the tank.

That's why I believe it's present everywhere (or the potential for it is everywhere) because a fish can carry it and it won't be obvious until it takes over.

BTW the "velvet" could be Brooklynella too, esp. if it's on the clowns.....

JennM said:
Hey Shirley, playing devil's advocate for a minute, the lemonpeel could have had ich when you got him, he just wasn't showing symptoms, and that's what introduced it to the tank.

That's why I believe it's present everywhere (or the potential for it is everywhere) because a fish can carry it and it won't be obvious until it takes over.

BTW the "velvet" could be Brooklynella too, esp. if it's on the clowns.....

Hi Jenn,

As I recall, Brooklynella is what the clowns had. They developed it within 12 hours of coming home from the LFS, and the LFS had them only a day or so before we got them...:(

Well, I figured maybe the L.P. had Ich that hadn't "sprouted" yet, and was under stress where we got him. We usually get our fish from a place that really does keep the livestock for a full week to 10 days before selling, and this time it was from a very reputable place, but their fish are sold or shipped upon arrival in the shop. There were 3 Lemon Peels, all in separate partitions of one system, and all looked great. We chose the smallest (I wouldn't call him small, maybe smaller than medium).

So, if he had it before we got him, do you suppose he would have been all broke out the next day at that shop?? And the others, too?

Thanks Jenn,
Shirley :)
It could have already been in the LFS system. Most LFS have ich in their fish tank system. If you are saying that your tank was free of fish since Dec., then it came in with the fish from the LFS.

LFS usually have the free swiming stage of ich in their tanks and all it takes is a stressed fish for the free swiming stage of ich to find a suitable host. Once it attaches it progresses to the adult stage and then reproduces eggs. Once the eggs hatch into the free swiming stage it will look for a host. And then continue the cycle. That is why you may only see a spot one day but then two days later you see 20. It has reproduced and more have attached.

You have to break the reproduction cycle by removing the the host for the swiming stage.

I have always fresh water dipped all new arrivals and then up them in a treatment tank first before going in to the display tank. I quick 2-5 minute dip will kill most parasites.

Most people do not want to set up a treatment tank but if you don't your display tanks will eventually have an out break of some kind.

I never allow any water from a LFS to enter a display tank that has fish in it. You are just asking from trouble.
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If you place a fish in a tank and it suddenly shows ich spots the next day then it came in with the parasite already attached. The attached parasites are not large enough to see in such a short time. This is one reason why the recommended quarantine time for all new acquisitions is three weeks MINIMUM. The tank didn't have ich in it waiting for a fish. You brought the ich in on the angel because you didn't properly quarantine it in the first place.
The life cycle of Cryptocaryon irritans has been studied beyond fully. It has been demonstrated in scientific trials that ich is NOT present in all systems. This has been reported in the scientific journals and it is not really even debatable. It must be introduced and it can be eliminated. It is an obligate parasite that must have a host to survive. It is not a virus and does not behave like one. Saying ich is always present is contrary to all scientific evidence. If you want to hold on to your theory that ich is always present despite scientific evidence that proves otherwise then so be it.
Terry B
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Thanks, everyone! Um...I knew the tank didn't have ich b/c it was fishless for so point was, it's like herpes virus that brings on cold sores and such...we all have them...and stress, especially mixed with inadequate diet, brings on the cold sore. (Often during exam week for college students: no sleep, poor diet, stress) Same with Ich...just about any fish can get it if something causes it to become active...

So yes, the fish have it, but the conditions cause it to express itself, or become active. And you're right - the condition was already forming up before we brought him home - the stress starting upon his capture.

That's why I like to buy fish from the shop that keeps them for at least a week or two before selling. They'll actually look a fish up on their tank chart and tell me, "He's been there 4 days. I'd wait. He's been there 3-1/2 wks." We've had excellent luck with their fish.

Alright let me rephrase -- I believe ich is present in every system WITH FISH..... I believe that fish are carriers, even though the parasite may not present itself in a noticable way, it's in/on many if not all fish at all times, and it just takes a stressful episode to bring it out.

As for Ich being present in all LFS systems - following my own line of thinking, I'd be inclined to agree. However many links in the chain of custody use medications especially copper in FO systems to reduce the incidence of ectoparasites. For that reason, as well as the possiblity of free swimming parasites (in untreated systems) thou shalt never place fish store water in thy system :D

Thanks, Jenn. I understood what you meant. And - we never put "their" water in our tanks!:D

I'm curious about your comment:
"One last word of advice and caution -- please don't buy an anemone for your clowns. The clowns don't need one and it will most likely die. That's another thread, but I had to at least give you a heads-up."

I haven't really heard this before (maybe a thread should be started).

My 1st tank was established in Jan, 2002 if I remember right. It has been through hell and back with all my "new to the hobby" mistakes combined with bad advice from LFS. However, the anemone and 2 maroon clowns have been thriving since day 1. I don't have the scientific name of the anemone but I'll take a picture of try to find out. I don't want to jinx myself but I am wondering if I have been lucky with my anemone or if it's still to early to tell (1.5 years old so far).

Thanks for any comments. I'll try to get a picture soon.
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I'd call it good luck. With maroons you likely have an E. quadricolor - while no anemone is "easy", it is the most forgiving of all the host anemones.

Do a search about anemones -- what you read will curl your hair.

However, having said that, a suitable anemone in a suitable tank is a sight to behold.... I sold a rose anemone to a client the other day (also E. quadricolor, but a bright RED morph) and I visited her and saw the animal yesterday -- Wowzers! Wish I'd brought my camera............

Hi there Mike,

There are several threads on this, and yes, you've been very lucky and most likely feeding properly and regularly, and also providing excellent lighting and water conditions. I'd love to see a pic of it! If you've had it this long, I see no reason for you to lose it now. They usually take a few weeks to a few months to die, but after a year, I'd say you are in good shape.

For every one that makes it, there are hundreds that don't. They are usually one of the first things a new saltwater aquarist wants to get, they are rarely taken care of properly, and they usually die.

Tell us how you are taking care of your - food, lighting, etc.

~ Shirley :)

I have have a very simple setup, which you can see from the "My Tank Specs" link below.

I use 36W of lighting. The anemone has always moved to situate itself towards the top of the tank and in a high flow area. (Right now it's under the return from the Red Sea Prizm protein skimmer).

For feeding, I mix up a very small amount of brine shrim with about 1/2 teaspoon of Marine Snow diluted with saltwater. I suck it all up into a turkey baster and then I squit the solution right onto the anemone (I don't actually insert the baster into the "mouth" of the anemone). When I do this the anemone "grabs" the brine shrimp (don't know where they go from there). After about 5 minutes its shrinks and swells up; which I've always attributed to the Marine Snow. I do this 2 or 3 times a week.

In order to do this I first have to drop some brine shrimp in another part of the tank to distract the clowns otherwise they gobbble it up too quick.

The Marine Snow has tradeoffs...I've never been able to get Nitrates below 5ppm and some of the other problems I've had might have to do with this.

I also add 1 drop of Lugol's per week and 1/2 teaspoon B-Ionic parts 1 & 2.

The other things I have observed is that the male clown sometimes drags large chunks of food stuff (like the moulting from a Cleaner Shrimp) or other various things into the anemone.

The maroon clowns are both very interactive with the anemone and the female will incessantly wiggle around in it when it starts to shrink (like she's trying to stimulate it).

I will definitely take pics. for ID purposes. It's not a fancy one. Just plain pink with a large flat inner surface area and lots of tentacles around the outside. When hungry, it can stretch to a diameter of ~8". Normally, it's not fully expanded like that.

Jeez, I've done something right...feels good :)
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:D Can't wait to see pics!!

5 ppm on the nitrates isn't bad.

~ Shirley :)
I am also a believer that ich in some form is present in all our tanks with fish. Regardless if you can see it or not.

If it was true that if all your fish were ich free for lenghty period of time ( that is if you could actually determine since admit it may not be visable yet still present ) and you never added a fish again then you would never have to worry about ich again.

Speaking from experience I know this not to be true. Without the addition of any fish for a long length of time, I usually get a small visable infestation of ich during the change of seasons from winter to summer and summer to winter where the tank temp fluctuations are the highest. Therefore I have come to the conclusion that visable signs or not it is always present where there is fish present....
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