Ich: Finding My Truth (amidst the gazillion philosophies, schools of thought and approaches)

Discussion in 'Fish and Invertebrates' started by dmhinsf, Jan 23, 2013.

  1. dmhinsf

    dmhinsf Guest

    Hi BARs,

    The following is an excerpt from a note I sent to a friend who also has a reef tank. I am just mulling over how to address marine ich in my own reef tank - a 175 gallon mixed reef.

    I have been reading a lot about ich lately. I am pretty certain that I have ich in my tank. Once there, I am skeptical that I would be able to get rid of it - even if I did hyposalinity in a QT tank for 10 weeks. My sense is that it would just find its way back in one way or another - even if I implemented a strict QT regimen for anything I put in my tank - sand, rock, coral, fish. I have decided that I am definitely NOT going to do any kind of copper treatments in a QT or otherwise - seems too risky.

    (And side note: I know I have a pesky goby living in my overflow that I will NEVER be able to catch! He would be able to keep the ich alive...)

    There is a lot written about susceptibility of different fishes and about the development of resistance or immunity to the parasite once the fish survives an initial bout. There is also a lot of talk about the best management being STRESS REDUCTION - feeding high quality foods with garlic (supports appetite, feeding and only maybe (depending on who you talk to) immunity), skimming and water changes (water quality), compatibility of species (avoid fights and pests)...all things to keep the tank stable and as stress-free as possible.

    Most people think that the cleaner shrimp and wrasses don't do much to address ich - they may help with wound care and cleaning. I have one of each in my tank and they are constantly picking at the inhabitants. Funny, my wrasses never visit the shrimp and only make use of the wrasse.

    Most people agree that the "reef safe" products are useless.

    A few folks put out a school of thought that - ridding your tank of ich is the difference between your fish surviving and thriving. I, of course, want my fish to thrive. But, again, I am skeptical that I would be successful in any attempt to rid my tank of ich. The unfortunate thing is that this school of thought is common among those articles that are written by the more scientific, seemingly experienced, knowledgable, credible people in the forums.

    What are your collective thoughts, learnings, philosophy on this? If fish do develop immunity - is that strictly surviving - are they still some how less "happy" waging the constant immunity battle with this parasite?

    I know I have ich on a few fish. I know it is likely on the other fish too - just not visible in the gills and such. But I do have ich that becomes visible mostly when the lights go down in the evening. The ich is on newer arrivals - the old kids don't seem to show it (immunity?). I know I've had it in my tank probably since the beginning when I got my first tang (one of my first tank inhabitants). The fish that have visible salty specks seem to be fighting it okay. They eat, they swim. They do look a tad more sad (stressed - are fish sad?) than the rest. I also have a few fish sand diving and scratching. I feel for them. But, as I say these are mainly newer arrivals and may just have yet to settle in, de-stress and build up the resistance the other tank mates seem to have.

    I may go buy a QT tank and set it up. I just struggle to determine where I would want to put it in my place. I also considered getting my old 75 gallon tank out of storage and setting it up as a QT - moving all the fish over there for 10 weeks of hypo salinity. Just uncertain about the outcome with all the different messages online.

    I am most inclined to provide the fish with an environment so they can fight the ich off and then ultimately hope that they are more resistant to it and as happy as a fish in a micro reef can be. But as I've read, all it takes is one stressor and the fish succumb to the attacks again.

    I'm rambling now. Your thoughts?

    Thanks, All!


    175g mixed reef with another 40g or so down below.
  2. aqua-nut

    aqua-nut Supporting Member

    Are the fish happy with ich in the tank? Probably not. Would you be happy and unstressed if your house had bedbugs, fleas, head lice or mosquitoes? (Just creeped myself out with that list!)

    I grew up in New Orleans. It was a long time ago and the mosquito repellants were not well developed. I got bit alot! From that, I believe, I developed a resistance to the bite. I get no reaction. Thirty minutes after a bite, there is no indication I ever got bit. That, in no way, translates to I like to get bit or I'm OK with being bit. A high Sierra meadow in July is still mosquito hell.

    I don't know if that is a fair analogy but it's what I've got! :)

    Ich has a life cycle. If you can disrupt that life cycle you can defeat it. If there are no hosts in the DT, it will die off. If you can completely cure your fish in QT and don't introduce any other fish w/ Ich, you should be successful. Keeping all QT materials out of the DT is extremely important. I have read that some commercial breeders keep QT off site from the breeding operation. If at all possible, keep the QT in another room from the DT. Do not share ANY tools, nets, containers, etc. without being sterilized (bleach bath) first.

    Good luck and keep posting your decisions and progress.
  3. gimmito

    gimmito Guest

    I like John's analogy regarding mosquitoes and ich. Your fish are dealing with it, but are suffering because if it. I would setup that 75 up and running asap and get all your fish in there. Let your main display go fallow for a few months just to be sure. I used rid ich (which is malechete green/formalin) by Kordon which was recommend by Kevin Kohen of Live Aquaria when a couple of tangs broke out w/ich in QT. I also siphoned the bottom of the QT for any tomites and did the tank transfer method.

    You might want to attend our February meeting featuring fish disease expert Lance Ichinotsubo.

    Best wishes on a healthy tank.
  4. rygh

    rygh BOD

    Interesting mosquito analogy. I like that.

    My theory : Ich is only a serious danger in two cases:
    1) A very stressed fish is mildly exposed.
    A new fish from LFS.
    2) A healthy fish is heavily exposed.
    If you add a very sick fish to your tank.
    Basically, if the innate immune system is compromised or overwhelmed.

    Totally ridding the system of ich is of course the best solution by definition.
    But if that is not practical for you, just do the best you can.
    A lot of people, myself included, gave up.

    A perfect QT is a LOT of effort.
    The main problem is keeping an under-sized system going that may not have
    properly working biological filtration.
    You need to be ready for that. Lots of water changes! Non stop attention.

    Remember : Quarantine done wrong can be worse than ich.
  5. Coral reefer

    Coral reefer Past President

    How many fish an what types? Th tank transfer method is pretty awesome IMO. If like to post a spiffy link for you, but don't have one. I think the Basic idea is to transfer fish to a new clean container every so often to prevent parasites from following along with them. Someone probably has a better description or a read for you
  6. tankguy

    tankguy Supporting Member

    Id like to add that once you've kicked ich to the curb, treat your tank with vitamin c. Ive been ich free for a long time. Ive tried almost every medicine and none have worked
  7. dmhinsf

    dmhinsf Guest

    A bit more info and a follow-up question:

    Q: According to my reading, it seems that ich can be carried in on live rock, sand, corals and notably snails. If I do the fallow method and let my DT go fishless for 10 weeks or longer, do I need to take out all the snails and crabs and urchins and other invertebrates as well (placing them with the fish in the QT)???

    I have a lot of fish in my tank. I confess I may have overstocked my tank and added fish too quickly (perhaps complicating my ich situation). I just did a list of my fish not long ago so here it is - from memory. Before any one criticizes my livestock load, please know that I tend to buy my fish small and when they get too big for my setup (currently a 175g), I pass them along - to a friend or to my LFS. I plan to get rid of my Blonde Naso Tang and One Spot Foxface soon - both poop way too much (nitrates) and are on the verge of being too big (for my tank and my taste).

    Let's see...
    2 black and white oscellaris
    2 pajama cardinalfish
    1 Bangaii cardinalfish
    1 yellow tang (medium sized)
    1 blonde naso tang (getting big)
    1 black spot foxface rabbitfish (medium size)
    1 randall's goby
    1 Catalina goby (in the overflow - dammit!)
    1 sleeper gold headed goby
    1 bicolor blenny
    3 dispar anthias (scratching)
    1 lyretail anthia (scratching)
    1 flame angel
    1 neon dottyback (scratching)
    2 Hawaiian flame wrasse (M and F - both with visible salty ich)
    2 Labout's wrasse (both M - I think - one has visible salty ich)
    1 hooded wrasse (M - with visible salty ich)
    1 velvet fairy wrasse (M)
    2 Scott's fairy wrasse (M and F - F with visible salty ich)
    2 Solarensis wrasse (gender hmmmmm...one has visible ich)
    1 exquisite fairy wrasse
    1 mystery wrasse
    1 cleaner wrasse

    Plus: 2 urchins, 3 blue legged hermits, 3 or 4 emerald crabs, 1 tuxedo urchin, 1 longspine black urchin, 1 cleaner shrimp, 1 pistol shrimp...and a snail or 20

    All the fish with visible signs of ich seem to be eating well and fighting hard - I doubt any will die (based on what I see). Interesting, my tangs seem to never show signs of ich. I am doing water changes VERY frequently these days to keep nitrates as close to zero as I can (with no great success based on my latest parameters):

    My latest parameters:
    Temp: 79
    Salinity/SpG: 34/1.025
    pH: 7.95 (probe)/8.0 (API)
    Alkalinity: 8.3/2.63
    Ammonia: 0
    Nitrite: 0
    Nitrate: 16 ppm (Red Sea)/40 ppm (API)
    Phosphate: 0.08 (Red Sea)
    Calcium: 470
    Magnesium: 1600

    I moved the contents of my 75 gallon mixed reef to my 175 gallon tank about 5 months ago. I recently added a few pieces of new live rock. I am running a biopellet reactor as well as Phosbahn reactor. Skimming is excellent and I utilize two sock filters which I switch out VERY regularly.

    What else...I think that's enough background for now. Now I welcome continued thoughts about ich or advice or constructive criticisms.
  8. ReefLove

    ReefLove Guest

    Just for my info. How to treat with vitamin C ? I'm going to do it from day one. And strict QT.
  9. gimmito

    gimmito Guest

    Wow...you weren't kidding about alot of fish. :) Good thing they are mostly wrasses, but I think you will get alot of fighting and more stress by putting them all in a 75. A cube setup would work better IMHO. Another option is placing the larger fish in the 75 and use 5 gal buckets for the pairs of wrasses...I have a quite a few salinity buckets I can give you.
  10. dmhinsf

    dmhinsf Guest

    Thanks, gimmito, for the advice.

    My 75g is cube-ish - it is a custom shape: 36W, 20H, 24D

    I think I am going to get rid of the Naso and Foxface straightaway. Every thing else is pretty small - wrasse included - I have one Scott's that is pretty large by definition. The rest are small-medium in size (mostly small). They've all had their tussles but there is currently peace (and ich). You're right, though, a 75g may be too small. The plan would be to simply put enough live rock to have adequate filtration. I spose sand is required too for all those wrasse.
  11. gimmito

    gimmito Guest

    All you need is a sponge filter and a lot of pvc for them to hide... sand isnt necessary.
  12. gimmito

    gimmito Guest

    Nice fish list by the way. :)
  13. BAYMAC

    BAYMAC Guest

    Sand is actually ill advised for it at any rate :)
  14. Coral reefer

    Coral reefer Past President

    And rock I would think...
  15. gimmito

    gimmito Guest

    ...and rock. :)
  16. dmhinsf

    dmhinsf Guest

    Can anyone provide insights/information in to the following questions about treating ich?

    1) If I opt to do hypo salinity treatment for my fish -- is there any reason that I couldn't take the corals out of my DT and put in another tank and leave the fish in the DT and decrease the salinity to levels that would kill ich (1.009, for example)? Then once the 10 weeks is over bring the corals back over. Are there any risks associated with this approach.

    I am just thinking, I have maybe 5 bigger rocks in my aqua scape with most of my corals attached. Then I have smaller frags that are on small rocks that can be easily moved. My corals are healthy and seem to be easier to move out than my fish from my perspective.

    To accomplish this, I would set up my 75g from storage. I would transfer over water from the DT in to the 75g and supplement it with new water. The biological filtration would come from live rock (with corals attached) that have already been cycled. I could move over my Phosbahn and biopellet reactors as well. The DT would still have a substantial amount of live rock and all the sand to keep the bio filtration active.

    2) If I end up taking the previously described approach, this question is moot. However, if I do take the fish out of the DT over to a QT, do the inverts - snails, urchins, crabs, cucumbers, etc. need to go as well? I understand that these can carry ich - I have specifically seen snails called out in my reading.

    Just pondering the easiest way to do this hypo-salinity treatment.

    Thanks a mil for any advice.
  17. BAYMAC

    BAYMAC Guest

    "Ich" has a life cycle.... keep the food it needs (fish) out of the tank long enough, it will no longer be there.... IE keep the fish in QT for longer then the life cycle of "ich".
  18. BAYMAC

    BAYMAC Guest

    It is, but Jim covered that by leaving it out of the quote and instead suggested PVC :)

    No rock, no sand - ready for any kind of treatment you need to tank, and easily cleaned between QT cycles.
  19. rygh

    rygh BOD

    There are some risks.
    1) The hypo will kill a lot of life in the live rock and sand bed.
    2) The hypo does negatively affect your bio filtration, as the bacteria change over from salt to brackish.

    Combine the die off with poor filtration, and you could easily see a big ammonia or nitrite spike.
    And since your DT is large, water changes to compensate will be an issue.
    Plus, you have the issue when you change back to full salt water as well.
    Plus, you cannot medicate with copper in the DT, if you give up on hypo.
  20. lattehiatus

    lattehiatus Past President

    Just to clarify, "ich" refers to Cryptocaryon? I've seen Amyloodinium referred to "ich" as well, for which hyposalinity is not an effective treatment.

    houser documented his transfer method of fighting ich using 5-gal buckets. It will be a little more challenging with your fish stocking list, to put it lightly. :)

    In the OP you mention there is a goby in the DT's overflow that is nearly impossible catch. The goby is a potential carrier and if your goal is to eradicate the disease you will need to either trap it or empty the DT of corals/rock/sand/etc and treat the DT.

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