Columnaris Symptoms And Treatment

Discussion in 'Freshwater Fish Disease' started by CindiL, Feb 3, 2017.

  1. CindiLFishlore LegendMember

    Columnaris Symptoms and Treatments: What is it? Columnaris is a gram negative aerobic bacterial fish disease. This means that it thrives in well oxygenated, often very "clean" tanks unlike some other diseases that thrive in low O2 and high organic loads. It is caused by the bacteria flavobacterium which is a common bacteria found in all fish tanks and is not a problem until new fish are introduced to the tank carrying the disease or a fish is weakened or injured allowing the bacteria to take a foot hold. Once it becomes a disease on your fish it will spread rapidly through the aquarium. It also thrives and reproduces faster in warmer tanks over 80 degrees but can still exist in a 78 degree tank and lower though the bacteria will not reproduce as fast as the temperature is lowered.

    Identification: It can be confusing and hard to identify initially as there are four known strains of the disease itself. In the slower moving strains there will be visible symptoms. The disease in the past has been called Saddleback Disease because often the afflicted fish will show a pale saddle like area across their dorsal fin onto their back. Or it has been called Cottonwool or Cottonmouth disease because the fish will show cottony tufts on their fins, scales and often on their mouth. You will usually see these two symptoms on the slower moving strains.

    With the faster moving strains there will sometimes be virtually no symptoms. One day the fish will be fine, the next day dead. As I've had this go through my tank twice now in the last year there are some symptoms to watch for with these strains. The fish might be off by itself a little, then you may see it going up for air or gasping at the top, there may be paleness and/or bloating around the pectoral or ventral fin area, the fish may appear as if it is swimming erratically like something is going on with its swim bladder, it may or may not pinecone with scales sticking out, finally it will be on the bottom of the tank and death will follow rapidly. This can all happen within 12-48 hours. The bacteria will attack the gill tissue which is why the fish will be gasping for air in the tank, breathing heavily, or at the surface of the water, once its in the blood stream, death occurs very fast.
    As a side note, these latter symptoms can also be caused by iridovirus found in gourami's, bettas and other species of fish.

    Prevention: The most important thing you can do to prevent this disease is by a quarantine of ALL new fish. I am as guilty of not doing this as others at times and the times I have not done the proper quarantine I have brought this disease into my aquarium with disastrous results. A two-three week quarantine is a must where any symptoms will show up and can be treated for appropriately.

    It is important to have adequate minerals in your tank as well with general hardness not being too low.
    Please see the following article: Important: - Understanding pH, KH, GH in Home Aqauriums

    Avoid overstocking or aggression in your tank as the stressors will also lead to weaker fish.

    Treatment: Lower your tank temperature to 75 to help slow down the spread of the disease. The best treatment if you're in the US is a combo antibiotic treatment of Kanaplex and a nitrofurazone based medicine found in the following popular brands: API Furan-2 or Tetra Fungus Guard or Jungle Fungus Clear tabs. If you can't get a hold of Kanaplex then Mardel Maracyn - 2 (minocycline) is your next good option. You'll want to remove carbon during treatment. Follow the dosing on the packaging and do at least two rounds of nitrofurazone with a large water change in between. Its best to do one round of Kanaplex as its a strong medicine and can be hard on the kidneys if treated for too long. According to Seachem a second round can be repeated if necessary though. Medicated kanamycin fish flakes are another option though not necessary for successful treatment.

    If its in your tank then best to go ahead and treat the whole aquarium even if only some fish are exhibiting symptoms. Once treatment is started you may continue to see deaths of already infected fish for another 24-48 hours but after that they should stop. I had a betta fish exhibiting symptoms like the gasping for air and she was saved in time by the medicine. I don't know the long term effects of the gill damage once treated.

    Nitrofurazone is invert safe. It will turn your tank a "lovely" shade of yellow :eek: but it works well. Kanaplex says to remove inverts though I have personally never had an issue treating with this combination and I have Cherry and Amano shrimp and nerite snails in my tank. I guess its a "use it at your own risk" but wanted to share my own experience.
    In general these two medicines will not negatively effect your nitrogen cycle. If you have a very new or immature cycle it probably could cause a cycle bump but again I have never personally had an issue with these medicines that are considered safe for the bio-filter.

    Sometimes I see Erthyromycin or Tetracycline or Oxytetracycline mentioned as treatment. None of these treatments will work as they are primarily for gram positive bacteria and will be useless for this disease.

    If you are not in the US and cannot get a hold of the antibiotics mentioned above then aquarium salt has been shown to be a positive treatment method and may be your only way of stopping the disease. I think Amazon UK does have Tetra Fungus Guard though last time I checked.
    Salt Treatment: types: you can use aquarium salt, or any un-iodized salt such as Kosher Salt, Sea salt, Canning and Pickling Salt. Add in 1 tsp per (actual) gallon of water, dissolved first in some tank water before adding it to the tank. 12 hours later repeat this dosage and finally 12 hours after that a final dosage. You will now be at .3% salt level which is effective for eradicating the bacteria and is the same dosage recommended for ich treatment when treating with salt. The vast majority of fish can handle this amount of salt for a two week period. Some fish of course cannot and may need to be removed during treatment, though even scaleless fish can handle 2 tsp per gallon for short duration periods.
    Salt does not evaporate and must be replaced with water changes, i.e., 5g of water out, 15tsp or 5 tbsp salt back in.

    Thanks, hope that helps anyone looking to treat this terrible disease.
    Last edited: May 9, 2017
  2. LucyModeratorModerator Member

    Thanks for taking the time to write this up.
    I'm sure it will help a great many people looking for help

  3. Cichlid CindyNew MemberMember

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with us!!! Question: You recommend using nitrofurazone in conjunction with the karaplex? Also, once I've treated, how long before I can put my carbon filters back? Thank you!

  4. CindiLFishlore LegendMember

    You're welcome!
    Sometimes nitrofurazone alone will be enough for a mild case but in tough cases where there are rapid fish deaths then your best bet is the combination with kanaplex.

    You'll want to do at least a couple of 4 day rounds with nitrofurazone with water changes in between and at the end. The carbon cartridge can go back in at the end after the water change.
    If you have a combo cartridge then you can just cut a slit in it and dump out the carbon. Or if your carbon has been in your tank for over a month its probably not really viable anymore and could be left in.

  5. Cichlid CindyNew MemberMember

    Thank you so much for your help! It's really appreciated. I have a second tank and since I've been using the same net and cleaning tools, I think I'll treat it with the nitrofurazone too. Again, TY!!! Cindy
  6. grantm91Fishlore VIPMember

    Im not clued up on disease but this post is top 10/10 not too long of a read and alot of very useful info thank you for sharing!!!
  7. HelpIAmABeginnerNew MemberMember

    QUESTION: Do I dose both at once? Or do I do one dose of API Furan-2 The first day, then kanaplex on the second day, & then API-Furan-2 on the third day? Or do I do API-Furan-2 on all days?
  8. leighnicollNew MemberMember

    I just had this happen and lost 3 fish... which happened to be all the fish in the aquarium. It is a small, 10-gallon planted tank that had 3 guppies. They were fine for 2 weeks and then all of a sudden one of the females got the saddle and all three (the other two never had visible signs) were dead the next day. This was last night and this morning, respectively.

    Is there a specific time I should wait before adding new fish to this aquarium? Should I treat it with the KanaPlex (which will arrive tomorrow) even though there are no fish? Will it be safe for the plants? Sorry so many questions!
  9. CindiLFishlore LegendMember

    You use both together at once following the dosing instructions for each.
  10. CindiLFishlore LegendMember

    I would treat the empty tank with Maracyn Oxy to get rid of the active bacteria in the tank and wouldn't bother with the kanaplex in an empty tank.
    Kanaplex is alright on plants generally but nitrofurazone can be hard on them causing leaf loss though the plant should bounce back.
  11. leighnicollNew MemberMember

    Thank you for responding. I can order the Maracyn Oxy but it won't arrive for 3 days, and since the KanaPlex is arriving today, is it okay to use it, instead, or is that only for treating the fish? Also, will aquarium salt help the process? Thank you!
  12. CindiLFishlore LegendMember

    You can use it, its just kind of expensive to use on the tank only but if you are wanting to get fish sooner rather than later then yes, you can use it.
    Aquarium salt would help but if you're going to use the kanaplex its most likely not necessary.
  13. WhitewolfWell Known MemberMember

    In addition to the kanamycin + furan approach you can usually find around and use...

    maracyn 2 (yes i know you already said that)
    Oxytetracycline (usually mixed in food)
    Maracyn plus (sulfas)

    I also highly dissagre on one point, oxytetracycline will most certainly work for F. Columnairs :)
  14. HelpIAmABeginnerNew MemberMember

    How many days do I keep my tank on API-Furan-2 until I dose them with Kaniplex? What's the max amount of doses I should do of each?
  15. CindiLFishlore LegendMember

    With columnaris I'd do at least two rounds of Furan 2 (four days each) with a large, at least 50% water change in between. The normal dosing for Kanaplex is 3 doses but they say this can be repeated once if improvement is seen but infection is still there.
  16. HelpIAmABeginnerNew MemberMember

    Okay, thank you! I hope my fish start to get better-- thank you for all your wonderful advice!!
  17. WhitewolfWell Known MemberMember

    CindiL i just bought kanaplex. Haven't used it in about 5 years, so the normal dose is half a measure per ten gallons, its hard to get a half measure accurate, have you had any issues with dosing or overdosing? (i actually read the instructions wrong and gave them double dose, it was in liters)
    Just wondering. Im probably gonna be using furan/kanamycin combo in the future in a hospital tank for new or sick guppies and wondering if its really easy to overdose, as i always used oxytetracycline flake in the past. Im not used to dosing powder antibiotics......
  18. CindiLFishlore LegendMember

    I think you read the instructions wrong, I just re-checked mine packaging. It is two level scoops per 10g or 1 level scoop per 5g or 20l. I think you saw the 20l and misread it as 20g. 20g would actually be 4 scoops. You can see why it is best used in a small hospital tank (10g or less).
  19. HelpIAmABeginnerNew MemberMember

    Do I do Kanaplex after API-furan-2
  20. WhitewolfWell Known MemberMember

    Yes @CindiL your right, I checked it again and its two scoops per ten gallons. And yes @HelpIAmABeginner AmABeginner, you would use them together for about 8 days. 50% water change and redoes every other day, and I recommend heaps of AQ salt and a cycled filter in a hospital tank