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Marine Ich Outbreak Explained?

Could stress caused by a heater failure have triggered the marine ich outbreak?

Posted: February 19, 2010

By Jackie Brown

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We are into the second week of our surviving fishes’ hospital tank stay. The copper treatment is over, so I’m feeling really optimistic about our fishes’ survival now that we don’t have to subject them to such a toxic chemical.

Now that we don’t need to maintain copper levels anymore, we can use the carbon insert in the filter. I’m hoping this will enable us to go more than two days between water changes. So far, the ammonia levels have been lower than they were at the beginning. This may be due to the fact that the filter media is building up more beneficial bacteria, or it could be in part due to the carbon in the filter.

Searching for Answers
If you’ve been following our ich saga on this blog, you may remember that I have been going over this outbreak in my head, wondering how in the world it could have happened. It came at a time when no new livestock had been added to the tank for at least nine months or so, and I had never seen any signs of ich in the tank.

From what I have read, it seems that one theory is that ich can exist in a tank at low levels for a long time without causing disease in the fish. Apparently, when fish are healthy and stress-free, their immune systems can effectively fight off the parasite. However, if something happens in the tank to overly stress the fish, their immune systems fail and the parasite takes over.

The other day, we came across some information and a light blub went off — I think I know how our ich outbreak happened. What I read mentioned that ich outbreaks are often reported after heater failures.

About four weeks before I saw the first signs of ich on the fish (white spots), our heater failed. By the time we realized there was a problem, the temperature in the tank was 87 degrees Fahrenheit. This was an 8-degree swing in a short period of time (several hours at most). I think this rapid temperature swing stressed our fish, causing their immune systems to suffer, and allowing them to succumb to the ich that was already in the tank.

If we had quarantined all fish before putting them in the tank, we never would have introduced ich in the first place. After the display tank is ich-free (in about six more weeks), I will never again make the mistake of adding livestock without a quarantine period — it’s just not worth the risk!

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Reader Comments

Christopher    Saraland, AL

3/12/2010 11:24:56 AM

Good information

Bryan    Stilwell, OK

2/26/2010 9:39:39 AM

Thanks for the words of encouragement, Jackie. It's funny, I have this one Blue Damsel that has been here since the beginning, that just keeps swimming as if nothing has ever happened in the tank. I use him as my motivation. I will definitely focus on the maintenance and stability. Again thanks.

kris    flo mo, TX

2/25/2010 2:04:27 PM

salt water sounds to difficult

Jackie    Irvine, CA

2/25/2010 11:11:26 AM

Hi Bryan,

I'm so sorry to hear about your anemone... I hope you don't give up on salterwater tanks. They are difficult, but extremely rewarding. Most anemones are very delicate and extremely hard to care for. I would suggest sticking to some of the hardier creatures and focusing on keeping your tank well maintained and stable before moving on to more delicate creatures. Don't give up!

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