Aquatics Unlimited: Articles: Freshwater Ich
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Freshwater "Ich"

for the week of 7/1/99

"Ich" (short for the scientific name Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, the single celled parasite that causes the infection) is perhaps the most commonly seen disease in tropical aquarium fish.

What does it look like? Ich is commonly described as "tiny bubbles" or "grains of salt" sprinkled on the body and fins of the fish. The individual spots appear white in color and raised.

Where does it come from? There are probably a number of Ich parasites in every freshwater aquarium and perhaps on most fish - just as in nature. It is only when they are in great numbers that there is a threat to fish.

What triggers an outbreak? A sudden temperature drop is the sure route to a major epidemic, but any other severe stress that lowers the fishes' immune system may also cause a problem. Adding a heavily infested fish to an otherwise healthy tank can result in enough parasites to stress everybody.

What's the damage? In addition to the many parasites visible on the fishes' skin, there are many more on the gills. Left unchecked, the disease damages gill tissue, leading to death.

What's the treatment? Malachite green is very effective at treating freshwater ich, and is harmful to only a few species, which should be treated at half strength 12 hours apart, rather than full strength daily as directed. Saltwater baths are also effective for fish that tolerate them.

"Tip of the week" appeared regularly in 1999 and 2000.

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