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How to Cure Saltwater Ich

Discussion in 'Fish Disease & Treatment' started by chaosfyre, Jan 29, 2013.

  1. chaosfyre

    chaosfyre New Member

    I noticed that some people are not aware of the hyposalinity treatment for salwater ich. Some people are aware of it, but believe it is a "holistic" and bogus approach that does not actually work.
    If you have not heard of this treatment, let me tell you a bit about it. I found a great article explaining how and why it works. I've also reseached this principle in the past, and did a project demonstrating it. Check out the video-- its pretty neat to see. Hopefully I can spread awareness about this great alternative to ich medicines and save some fishy lives.
    The method I have used to successfully treat a lightly infected fish was to put it in a 10 gal quarantine tank, with a hang on back filter, an air-stone to prevent bacteria growth (though this is probably not necessary if you have a filter), a tank HEATER, and salt water. The equipment is mostly low-cost, and you probably have it lying around already. If not, check craigslist!
    Fill the tank with salt-water at 1.009 salinity. I adjusted mine until it was exactly this. Put your fish in. You can acclimate him if you like (though I didn't). Lowering the salinity will not harm the fish, though raising it quickly might.
    Set the heater in your quarantine tank to 88 degrees. The high temp inhibits the ability of the ich parasite to breed, and will not harm most fish. Leave him there for 2 weeks. At the end of that time, if he is completely ich-free, slowly begin raising the salinity so that at the end of the third week it matches that of your display tank. Then acclimate him to your display, and return him! If he still shows signs of ich, leave him there and be patient. The parasite will eventually cycle through its life stages and drop off, and it will die in its free-swimming form because of the low-salinity.
    I imagine this method will be most successful if you nip the ich in the bud! Examine your fish every day for signs of infection or abnormal behavior. Especially if you've added a new fish or if your water quality has not been up to par lately. Also, you can keep the Quarantine tank at this salinity and treat most of your incoming fish for ich whether its visible yet or not. I am not aware of any fish that woudl be harmed by the increased temp and lowered salinity, though I am sure there are some that are sensitive. Inverts probably are. Do your research before hand.
    For fish that are extremely covered in ich, this may not be enough. There are some more radical methods that may be worth mentioning if your fish is near death. These methods include total freshwater dip for a very short amount of time each day, in addition to low-salinity environment and quarantine. Ask me and I'll go into more depth about it. This is for emergencies only.
    Here is my video demonstrating bacterial susceptibility to environmental salinity changes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLPOnhnbSic
    Here is the article explaining how it works. If you'd like a direct link to it or other similar articles, PM me (as I'm not sure I am allowed to post those link here).
    About Hyposalinity or Osmotic Shock Therapy

    A Simple, Effective, Non-Chemical Treatment for Ich

    By 66cc">Stan & Debbie Hauter


    What is hyposalinity?
    Hypo means "lower than normal", and saline/salinity "of or containing salt", therefore hyposalinity in the simpliest of terms is a lower amount of salt contained in seawater than normal. With the salinity level of oceans and seas around the world averaging out at around 1.024 (specific gravity), although lowering the amount of salt in water by a few points might be called hyposalinity, when it comes to saltwater aquariums this means bringing the salt content down to a range of 1.013 to 1.010 (specific gravity) to be effective and truly considered as such.
    How does hyposalinity effect ich and other marine organisms?

    All marine creatures require freshwater just as we do to survive, they just process it differently. Since their bodies are less salty than the water surrounding them, to prevent the loss of needed freshwater they take in seawater, process it to eliminate the salt molecules, and then retain the freshwater to maintain a balance with nature. When the salinity of seawater is lowered, or hyposalinity is applied, it results in a lowering of the osmotic pressure of the water at the same time, thus the related name Osmotic Shock Therapy (OST). Fish and a few other sea creatures can withstand and adjust to this change in pressure, but protozoan (Cryptocaryon/White Spot Disease, and Brooklynella/Clownfish Disease), dinoflagellate (Oodinium/Velvet or Coral Fish Disease), and flat worm (Black Spot Disease) ich organisms cannot. Reduce this necessary pressure, particularly rapidly, and they literally explode! Although delicate corals and invertebrates may not immediately rupture as ich parasites do, these too are marine animals that cannot tolerate exposure to low osmotic pressure, resulting in a rather quick death.
    When is hyposalinity most effective on ich?

    Hyposalinity is largely ineffective on mature ich parasites that are well protected in the gills surrounded by thick mucus produced by an infected fish, when embedded deep in the tissues of their host, and during the final encrusted cyst stage of life. It is primarily during the free-swimming phase of life when newborn organisms are released from a mature cyst, and before they have the chance to fully attach and develop into mature parasites that they are most vulnerable and can be eliminated with hyposalinity.
    When can this method of treatment be used?

    Applying hyposalinity or osmotic shock therapy to treat ich problems is a personal choice decision one has to make, but here are many of the ways it can be used.

    • For a QT

    • While treating fish in a QT, lowering the salinity can help prevent newborn ich organisms that might be released from mature cysts from reinfecting the fish during the quarantine period.
      As a preventative measure, when new fish are brought home and placed in a QT for several weeks of observation before introducing them into the main aquarium.
    For Fish-Only Tanks

    (Note: Under the following situations it is recommended to at least remove and give all exposed fish a freshwater dip, preferably in combination with at least a one time appropriate medication treatment before placing the fish back into the main aquarium, at which point the salinity is lowered for 3 to 4 weeks.)When a QT is not available, or the choice is made not to treat ich infected fish in one.When one does not want to leave their aquarium empty with no fish to look at for month.
    [*]When there is concern or one wants to lessen the possibility of reinfestation occurring after the fish have been treated in a QT and returned to the main aquarium.
    [*]
    When reinfestation does occur after the fish have been treated and returned to the main aquarium.

    • For Reef Tanks

    • Hyposalinity should NEVER be used in a reef system, as it will kill corals and all types of delicate invertebrates. Since most people in all likelihood will not want to disturb these animals, not to mention have to hassle with removing them and set up another tank to put them in, the easiest thing to do for a reef tank is to leave it devoid of all fish for at least 4 weeks and allow the ich to run its life cycle and die off.
    I welcome any comments, corrections, discussions, or supporting or disclaiming research/articles/personal experience. Just be careful not to link to sites that sell fish and I think you should be fine.
  2. saxman

    saxman Guest

    Nice write-up.
    We used to use hypo as our first and best method for curing crypto, however, after having a long/repeated bout with a resistant case (and losing two prized fish), we have since moved on to quinine sulfate when the need arises. That's not to say that hypo generally won't work, because it works very well in many cases. However, if we're going to set up a hypo tank, we figure that we may as well simply use the quinine.
    One thing I didn't see in your post is to remind folks that they need to keep a sharp eye on their pH during hypo, as it tends to drop sharply. If you can maintain 7.8 - 8.0, you're doing well.
  3. heidijj

    heidijj New Member

    I appreciate your post, just a few questions? My hippo has shown signs of the ich for about 5 days now. I am going to get a tank set up to do what you suggested for the hippo, The other fish don't show any signs yet, what are the chances that it has already spread in the display tank? If I remove the hippo now is it to late? Or will the others get it anyway?
  4. saxman

    saxman Guest

    It really depends upon whether any of the cysts have dropped off of the affected fish...the sooner you get it out of the DT, the better. FWIW, the trophonts start to drop off the infested host at around 3-7 days. Your fish can actually appear to be "cured" at this point (no spots), however, what's happening is the protomonts are adhering to surfaces in the substrate, etc. and multiplying (this tomont stage typically lasts 3 - 28 days). Now...here's where your other fish become infected: the tomonts "hatch", and release theronts into the water column (typically lasts 12.5 to 48 hrs). BTW, this is when UV can affect the critters, assuming they make it into the UV unit. At the free-swimming theront stage, if the critters don't find a host, they die, which is why leaving a tank fallow works.
    HTH
  5. mr. limpid

    mr. limpid New Member

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Heidijj
    I appreciate your post, just a few questions? My hippo has shown signs of the ich for about 5 days now. I am going to get a tank set up to do what you suggested for the hippo, The other fish don't show any signs yet, what are the chances that it has already spread in the display tank? If I remove the hippo now is it to late? Or will the others get it anyway?
    If one has ick the entire tank has ick. Do not be fooled. You need to remove all fish to a Hospital tank and leave your DT with out fish for 6 to 8 weeks. This will end the ick life cycle in your DT. Do not return fish until successfully treated, other wise you are starting from square 1. I've been there lost 9 fish from an ick out break. That is why I QT anything wet, my ick arrived in my DT from LR from LFS tanks.
  6. mr. limpid

    mr. limpid New Member

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ChaosFyre
    I welcome any comments, corrections, discussions, or supporting or disclaiming research/articles/personal experience. Just be careful not to link to sites that sell fish and I think you should be fine.
    I'm glad you agree that Hypo is a safe way and less abrasive treatment. Since my first out break of ick in my DT I have tried, quinine, copper and those reef safe ick remedies. Hypo has been most effective. There are those rare cases like saxman stated of hypo resistant stains of ick, in which I have not run across. Couple of comment: lower of salinity to 1.009 should be done over 48 hour period, less stressful to fish. Raising temp. to 88 has no proven effect on ick other than make all creatures more active, again more stress on sick fish. Period of hypo min 3 weeks after no signs of crystal on fish, if a crystal appears during that 3 weeks you are back to week 1. If you want to read a step by step instruction on how to perform hypo Beth has a thread at the top of this form.
    Again thanks ChaosFyre for bringing this topic up again.
  7. saxman

    saxman Guest

    I agree...I was going to mention that I'd never keep anything at 88*F as it's too stressful, but I was so busy trying recall all of the other factoids in my head, I forgot about it. Gettin' old I guess...
    Here's another "slightly-dated" article on understanding crypto ( I say slightly-dated as our findings on quinine sulfate were "in progress" at the time):
    http://www.lionfishlair.com/biology/ich.shtml
  8. heidijj

    heidijj New Member

    how big of a qt tank do I need for
    8 chromis
    1hippo
    1 yellow tang
    1 damsel
    yellow watchman goby
    lawn mower blenny
    sand sifting goby
    and do I need to take out my shrimp and starfish as well?
    what about the snails how does it affect them?
    can the qt tank run without sand and rock?
  9. mr. limpid

    mr. limpid New Member

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Heidijj
    how big of a qt tank do I need for 30gal. will do. you need a filter that can handle that bio load, like a sponge that was in your DT or bio balls. Do not use LR or all the fauna on the rock will die, the bacteria will live.
    8 chromis
    1hippo
    1 yellow tang
    1 damsel
    yellow watchman goby
    lawn mower blenny
    sand sifting goby
    and do I need to take out my shrimp and starfish as well? YES, they can not handle low salinity
    what about the snails how does it affect them? all inverts
    can the qt tank run without sand and rock? Yes, just paint the bottom of tank a dark color, so the fish do not get disorientated.
  10. chaosfyre

    chaosfyre New Member

    Another Ich success story using hyposalinity:
    I recently acquired a large red sea purple tang. He was sort of a rescue fish-- he had bad ich and was in danger of dying, and one of his fins looked like it had been nipped almost in half. The manager was really sad about it-- store policy said they could only do freshwater dip, and it wasn't effective enough. He was afraid the fish would die at that rate, so he sold him to me for about half off ($80 instead of $150). I put him in my QT with hyposalinity at 1.009. The ich was gone in a day.
    I was going out of town and didn't want to leave him in the tiny 10 gallon QT tank since ammonia levels rise fast in there. I dropped him in the display but when I came back in town a day or two later, his ich was coming back. I knew it was far too soon for the cure to take, but boy did he have a blast stretching his fins in the big tank, zooming about. I put him back in the QT and his ich disappeared again. Now that I'm here to keep an eye on him, I will leave him in there for the requisite 3 weeks. He looks much much happier than when I got him. His color is gorgeous and his fin is already growing back. I have had him a week now.
    The men at the pet store keep asking about the fish, asking how he is doing. I think they were really glad I took him!
    I have to disagree that if one fish has it the whole tank has it--IF that infected fish is a new one. The new fish has picked it up somewhere else, and the life cycle of the ich has to be at the right stage to spread. If you catch it quick enough, within a few days, it is unlikely to have spread to your DT, especially if the other fish are healthy with good immune systems.
    My mimic tang showed ich a few days after I got him. I moved him into QT as soon as I saw it, and none of the other fish picked it up though he'd been in the DT a few days. I moved him back to DT after 3 days in hyposalinity QT and the ich never made a reappearance.
    : rgb(250, 250, 250);">
    With my purple tang, his ich case was really bad. 3 days wouldn't do it for him, but he wasn't in the DT long enough for it to spread. Check your fish every day-- as soon as you see ich, catch that sucker and drop him in hyposalinity for a week minimum. Of course its better to just put all new fish in QT from the start, but sometimes that is not possible.
    However, if your fish is NOT new, and one of your fish has developed ich from inside the tank, chances are your tank is already infected. That means the ich is living in its free form in the sand & water and basically the entire tank is contaminated. The weakest fish will catch it first. In this case, if you can, lower the salinity of the entire tank and turn up the heat. Beware of inverts that are sensitive to salinity changes. It may be easier to remove them to QT than the fish...don't forget to give them places to hide and algae to eat. I would also remove any obviously infected fish to a hyposalinity QT though, just to try to limit the spread. In my DT I keep the heat on 80 all the time to discourage any ich from breeding.
  11. chaosfyre

    chaosfyre New Member

    Heidijj: I appreciate your post, just a few questions? My hippo has shown signs of the ich for about 5 days now. I am going to get a tank set up to do what you suggested for the hippo, The other fish don't show any signs yet, what are the chances that it has already spread in the display tank? If I remove the hippo now is it to late? Or will the others get it anyway?
    @Heidijj: 5 days is dicey, but perhaps the ich has not yet spread. Take the fish out ASAP and into a quarantine. If you see any other fish who've caught it in the DT, take that one out too and keep watching. If more fish start showing it, you may think about treating the DT with hyposalinity. Otherwise, you probably caught it before it could spread. Good luck!
  12. chaosfyre

    chaosfyre New Member

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mr. Limpid
    I'm glad you agree that Hypo is a safe way and less abrasive treatment. Since my first out break of ick in my DT I have tried, quinine, copper and those reef safe ick remedies. Hypo has been most effective. There are those rare cases like saxman stated of hypo resistant stains of ick, in which I have not run across. Couple of comment: lower of salinity to 1.009 should be done over 48 hour period, less stressful to fish. Raising temp. to 88 has no proven effect on ick other than make all creatures more active, again more stress on sick fish. Period of hypo min 3 weeks after no signs of crystal on fish, if a crystal appears during that 3 weeks you are back to week 1. If you want to read a step by step instruction on how to perform hypo Beth has a thread at the top of this form.
    Again thanks ChaosFyre for bringing this topic up again.
    Thanks! I just wanted to spread an alternative around. Medicines are too expensive for me, but saltwater fish are equally expensive if not more. Its not fun to lose one. Hyposalinity has worked great for me, and I've used it 2-3 times. My current rescue case (the purple tang) was bad when I got him, but no sign of ich after the first day. He is staying in there for 3 weeks though! I don't see any stress from the temp being on the high-end (in the 80's), but I read the ich doesn't breed well in higher temps. I figure it can't hurt. My DT is in the 80's all the time, and the fish are happy as can be. I lost one of my good heaters, so my QT with the purple tang is at 75 this time. If the ich lyses when it drops off, I guess it won't have time to breed anyway!
  13. ellabell

    ellabell New Member

    So glad to come across this post today!! We are having a problem with ich in both of our tanks right now :( . We have a 180 g DT which right now has in it
    1 Naso Tang
    1 Blue Faced Angel
    1 Flame Angel ( this guy survived an ich outbreak over a year ago)
    4 Clowns
    3 green chromis ( also survived the last ich outbreak)
    1 Blue damsel
    2 cleaner shrimp, snails , crabs....live rock/sand
    We also have a 66 g Red Sea tank which I guess you could say is somewhat of a QT tank, our Angel and Naso both stopped there for months before going into the DT with no issue. In this tank right now we have
    2 Clowns
    2 Bengai Carinals
    2 Cleaner shrimp, snails, crabs, live rock and sand.
    AND a Pakistani Butterfly WHICH IS THE CAUSE OF ALL THE PROBLEMS RIGHT NOW!! :(
    We purchased the Pakistani over 2 months ago...he was at the LFS for about 4 weeks looked great. We brought him home and had him in the Red Sea tank for about 2 months, he looked great was eating well...put him in the DT, my Blue Face harassed him quite a bit the first day...things started to calm down the next couple of days, then the Pakistani broke out with Ich :( Ugh!
    We pulled him out of the DT, fresh water dipped him, put him back in the Red Sea tank, he was looking much better until the last couple of days, it looks like the ich is returning. AND it looks like my blue face, naso, and 2 of my clowns also have it!! The problem now is how to go about treating....I don't know how we can put them all in a hospital tank together seeing as it seems the stress caused the ich in the first place?? At this point we have taken all the inverts out of the DT tank and moved them into the Red Sea, we planned on taking out the live rock today and drop the salinity down. Get the Pakistani out of the Red Sea tank, we have another 10 g tank we can put him in. We are feeling overwhelmed!! We have been at the hobby about 2 and a half years. I really don't want to lose my Blue Face and Naso :( the good news is all of the fish are still active and eating pretty well despite all the chaos of the llast couple of weeks. My other concern is we are going away for a week April 29th, we really want to get a handle on all of this before we go away. Anyone have any thoughts??
    The only treatment we have used in the tanks previously is voogle. We did do 2 days of Paraguard in the DT tank (moved out all the snails,crabs...unfortunately could not catch the cleaner shrimp...they unfortunately didn't make it...word of caution to those of you who raved about that product on AMazon and other websites, it WILL kill invertebrates!! I know we should have taken out the live rock as well but had no where to put it until today.
  14. kayleigh

    kayleigh New Member

    We have been runnig our saltwater tank for about 8 years now. When we first started we lost A LOT of fish to ick! Someone told us to maintain our temperature at 80-82 and we would not get ICK. Ever since we increased the temp, about 4 years ago, we have not had any ick since!!
    Simple but it worked for us!
  15. ellabell

    ellabell New Member

    Thank you, we will do that as well :)
  16. kayleigh

    kayleigh New Member

    We had ick all the time, lost a dog face and porc puffer and a yellow tang all in one weekend! We have probably lost thousands of dollars worth of fish to ick. It is a wonder we did not throw in the towel on the hobby. But we loved our tank and wanted to keep going. I cannot express enough what the increase in tempature did for us. We have honestly not had ick since we have been maintaining the 80-82 temp. It seems too simple but it worked. It is the only thing we have changed so it must have made the difference. We have shared this with other tank owners around us and they to have had the same results.
    Ellabell.......what temp are you running your tank on now?
  17. ellabell

    ellabell New Member

    It is at 78 right now....we will start bringing it up a bit :) Good to hear we are not the only one who get frustrated, lately I have felt like throwing in the towel myself! It gets frustrating to keep losing fish after all the time effort and money we spend! Thank you so much for the input. One question, did you remove the live rock from your tank when you had trouble with ich?? We have dropped the salinity just a bit to start as well.
  18. kayleigh

    kayleigh New Member

    We have never removed the rock from the tank. My thought on ick is that it is like the flu. It always has the potential to show its ugly head but it has to have the right environment to break through! Increasing your temperature is like taking your vitamins! Lower your tempature, or your immune system and guess what? = ick or flu!!! :(
  19. beth

    beth Moderator Staff Member

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kayleigh
    We have never removed the rock from the tank. My thought on ick is that it is like the flu. It always has the potential to show its ugly head but it has to have the right environment to break through! Increasing your temperature is like taking your vitamins! Lower your tempature, or your immune system and guess what? = ick or flu!!! :(
    That would not be correct. The flu is a virus, and ich is a parasite. By carefully quarantine of new fish and treatment of infected fish prior to placing them in the display tank, the aquaria could totally avoid ever getting ich.
  20. chaosfyre

    chaosfyre New Member

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Beth
    That would not be correct. The flu is a virus, and ich is a parasite. By carefully quarantine of new fish and treatment of infected fish prior to placing them in the display tank, the aquaria could totally avoid ever getting ich.
    But once its in, its very hard to eradicate.
    @Kayleigh: Raising the temp to 80-82 is a good way to attempt to prevent the ich from breeding. Keeping the fish healthy by feeding a wide range diet is another good way to boost their immunity. But lowering the salinity a little bit probably will not kill the ich. The purpose of hyposalinity is to lyse the ich cells. Either they are lysed and dead, or they are not. If you don't pass the threshold required for lysing, it won't kill them and lowering the salinity a little bit will probably not help. I try to maintain my QT at 1.009 at all times so when the ich finally drops off, they will immediately pop from the pressure. The trick is to wait until you are sure all the ich has dropped off, and the life cycle of ich is around 3 weeks, so thats why we keep the fish in QT for that long.
    Now, I wouldn't recommend lowering the salinity to 1.009 in a display tank because there are other critters in there that will probably die as well. I'm not sure of the beneficial bacteria's tolerance range of salinity is. You wouldn't want all the good bacteria from your live sand and rock to be lysed too.
    You can try the higher temp thing in your DT, but if the infection is bad, you may have to wait at least 3 weeks to start seeing any results... I don't know for sure that 80-82 degrees will totally prevent ich from breeding. Probably it just makes it harder, and perhaps after a few ich life cycles, it will slowly die off. I wouldn't expect miraculous over-night results. If your fish are in any real danger with bad cases of ich, putting them in a hyposalinity QT would be a good idea. That could be hard if all the fish in the DT are showing ich. You obviously can't squeeze them all into a 10 gallon quarantine or they will tear each other apart. Putting even a couple of smaller fish into a 10 gallon quarantine may end up in fights. Put your worst case fish in your QT, and maybe one other fish depending on how big your QT is. Adding a dead rock or something for one of the fish to hide behind may help alleviate aggression problems. You may have equipment to set up another QT, or maybe not... maybe you could convert a large 20 gallon laundry tub into another temporary QT if you have enough equipment for it.
    Well, good luck.

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