Fishkeeping Blog Entry #4

How I Successfully Treated Ich


When I first got my 75 gallon fish tank two years ago, I was ecstatic. I couldn't wait to put all the fish on my "wish list" into this 75 gallon tank. However, at that time I didn't understand the importance of quarantining new fish before putting them into a large tank. Unfortunately I learned this the hard way. After buying a new Electric Blue Acara cichlid and my Blood Parrot cichlid, I immediately put them into my 75 gallon tank, which at the time, housed 3 other fish. For this first few days, the fish looked fine: it took me a short time to get them to eat and they were swimming without issues. However, I began noticing that something wasn't right...

Symptoms of Ich:

I noticed that a lot of my fish started swimming with their fins clamped tightly to their body. Furthermore, I also found that the fish would often scrape their sides on gravel and other decor, also known as flashing. Furthermore, I began noticing that the fish would start being very lethargic and lay on the gravel. Then, I found the defining symptom of ich: white spots. The white spots quickly appeared on the fish, first on the fins. After a few days, the spots started spreading to the fishes bodies. Some fish had more severe symptoms than others. Anyways, I noticied that all the fish looked stress.

What is "Ich"?

Ich, short for Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, is the most common aquarium fish disease. It is a protozoan parasite that looks like white dots on the fish. It usually gets introduced into aquariums when a new, unquarantined fish with ich gets put into a tank. Understanding the ich parasite's lifecycle is key to treating it. Ich usually lives inside a fish's mucus and feeds on the fish's body. At this stage, any medication will have no effect on the ich parasite, because it is protected by the fish's mucus. A mature ich parasite will then detach from the host and fall onto the gravel. There, it will begin reproduction until it releases thousands of new ich parasites. The new ich parasites will then try to attach themselves onto a fish and the cycle repeats itself. The key moments where medications can kill ich is during these periods where the parasite is not embedded in the fish's mucus.

How To Not Get Ich Into Your Aquarium:

The best way to treat ich is to not get ich in the first place. The way to do this is by quarantining new fish for at least 2 weeks. The reason why I recommend 2 weeks is because, as shown in my example, ich takes a few days, or even weeks, to show symptoms. Finally, you should preferably quarantine new fish in smaller tanks, so if the fish do have ich, treatment can require smaller water changes and less maintenance.

How I Successfully Treated Ich:

The primary way that I treated my ich epidemic was by using Ich-X by Hikari. Ich-X is a medication that uses malachite green, and is safer even for scaleless fish. I followed the instructions on the bottle precisely, such as doing 50% water changes every other day. Luckily for me, the results came quick as I finished my treatment in just 2 weeks. However, just because you don't see any white spots on your fish doesn't mean the ich is gone. You should continue treatment for another 3-7 days just in case there are some leftover ich parasites.

Another way that many people treat ich is by using the more traditional and more easily-accessible salt method. In the salt treatment method, people often couple it with increasing temperatures (which prevents ich from reproducing) and air stones to increase dissolved oxygen levels in the tank as a results of the increase in temperature. However, personally I prefer using Ich-X because of its fast results. (Although if you have plants you should not use Ich-X)