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What is Ich and How to Treat It

Cryptocaryon is a fully ciliated protozoan that is present in all saltwater environments. It is prevalent in marine aquariums, aquaculture ponds, and in import and wholesale holding environments. This widespread protozoan penetrates the skin and gills of the fish. Depending on the immune status of the fish, it can cause symptoms as mild as just a few small white spots to more severe symptoms including severe irritation, loss of appetite, lethargy, severe respiratory distress, and death.

Why do fish get Cryptocaryon?
Most wild fish are exposed to low levels of this parasite but are able to effectively fight off the infection without becoming seriously ill. In contrast, due to a relatively small volume of water and a concentrated population of fish, the number ofCryptocaryon has the opportunity to explode in the home aquarium. High levels of stress caused by poor water conditionsimproper diet, or aggression from existing tank mates can further aggravate the situation. As a result, even low, non-problematic numbers of Cryptocaryon protozoan can rapidly cause serious infections.

Identifying Cryptocaryon
Cryptocaryon is not too difficult to identify because of the characteristic white spots. The white spots are 0.5-2.0 mm in size and have a tendency to appear first on the pectoral fins. As a result, infected fish may swim with folded or clamped fins. As the disease progresses, the spots will become more wide spread and the eyes of the infected fish may become cloudy. A secondary fungal infection may also appear on the skin. If the infection is concentrated in the gills or is in the early stages, the fish may show irritation, respiratory distress, and lethargy without having any visual spots.

Treating Cryptocaryon
The treatment for Cryptocaryon is fairly straightforward provided the cause of the stress is corrected. By far, the most popular and effective treatment is copper. There are a variety of copper products available for use in the home aquarium. Thesecopper-based medications will provide proper treatment, if used at the correct dose. Even at very low amounts, copper is very toxic to invertebrates and can never be used in reef aquariums or aquariums with invertebrates. To ensure proper treatment, move the infected fish to a bare bottomed quarantine or treatment tank. It is essential to follow the manufacturer's instructions and use a copper test kit to monitor and maintain therapeutic levels of copper. Other methods that are sometimes used to control both freshwater and marine ich are high wattage UV sterilizers and diatom filters. The very fine diatom filters can help strain Cryptocaryon out of the water during its free-floating stage. A properly sized UV sterilizer will also kill the free-floating Cryptocaryon.

Preventing Cryptocaryon
The old saying that "prevention is the best form of medicine" is very true of all marine disease. It is especially true ofCryptocaryon. All new fish should be placed in a quarantine tank for at least ten days to make sure they are eating, free of disease, and are able to recuperate in a stress-free environment. Properly treat any sick fish before introducing them to the main display aquarium. Keep in mind that the quarantine tank must be clean, appropriately sized with efficient filtration, and have proper water parameters. Provide adequate hiding places to further decrease fish stress.


information sourced online.