Columnaris Symptoms And Treatment

CindiL

Member
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 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., 5 gallon of water out, 15tsp or 5 tbsp salt back in.

Thanks, hope that helps anyone looking to treat this terrible disease.
 
  • Moderator

Lucy

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

Cichlid Cindy

Member
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!
 
  • Thread Starter

CindiL

Member
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.
 

Cichlid Cindy

Member
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
 

grantm91

Member
I'm not clued up on disease but this post is top 10/10 not too long of a read and a lot of very useful info thank you for sharing!!!
 

HelpIAmABeginner

Member
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?
 

leighnicoll

Member
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!
 
  • Thread Starter

CindiL

Member
HelpIAmABeginner said:
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?
You use both together at once following the dosing instructions for each.

leighnicoll said:
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!
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.
 

leighnicoll

Member
CindiL said:
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.
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!
 
  • Thread Starter

CindiL

Member
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.
 

Whitewolf

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

tri-sulfa
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
 

HelpIAmABeginner

Member
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?
 
  • Thread Starter

CindiL

Member
HelpIAmABeginner said:
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?
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.
 

HelpIAmABeginner

Member
Okay, thank you! I hope my fish start to get better-- thank you for all your wonderful advice!!
 

Whitewolf

Member
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. I'm 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. I'm not used to dosing powder antibiotics......
 
  • Thread Starter

CindiL

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

HelpIAmABeginner

Member
Do I do Kanaplex after API-furan-2
 

Whitewolf

Member
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

Pure kanamycin sulfate is dosed at 1/2 teaspoon per ten gallons, I can't imagine why kanaplex (32-36% pure) (which is only about 1/3 as potent as pure kanamycin 100% powder) has these tiny scoops, they are not even 1/8 a teaspoon size scoops, I'm confused.....
I do not like seachrem, they are a over priced rip off company...
 

JLeeM

Member
I'm battling this disease now. Lost 3 corys and my beloved betta.

When quarantining new fish to prevent this, can you do the salt treatment on them for 1-2 weeks and then add them to the main tank?

Also don't understand why it says 1 teaspoon per actual gallon, and 15 teaspoons or 5 tablespoons for 5 gallons out with water change. How do I determine how many actual gallons of water are in a tank already set up being as I just put water until it's full?
 

KimberlyG

Member
JLeeM said:
I'm battling this disease now. Lost 3 corys and my beloved betta.

When quarantining new fish to prevent this, can you do the salt treatment on them for 1-2 weeks and then add them to the main tank?

Also don't understand why it says 1 teaspoon per actual gallon, and 15 teaspoons or 5 tablespoons for 5 gallons out with water change. How do I determine how many actual gallons of water are in a tank already set up being as I just put water until it's full?
Turn you filter off, put tape at your water line. Remove tank water in a measured pitcher. See how many gallons it takes to lower the level 2". Measure the height of your tank from the top of the gravel to the tape line then do the math. Plants and aquarium decor to not displace that much water. If you have rocks and large heavy driftwood that is a different story. Err on the side of caution when subtracting the gallon amounts for them.
 

JLeeM

Member
Hello.

Another question about the salt treatment.

After adding the third round of salt 24 hours in, how long do you let it stay before beginning to take salt out with water changes? About how many water changes does it take to remove salt from a 20 gallon long tank?

Also, once again, can I use this treatment on new quarantined fish before putting them in the tank to hopefully prevent this ever happening again? If so, for how long should they be quarantined and salted?
 

JLeeM

Member
I found some API Ich Treatment powder that has nitrofurazone as an active ingredient. Would this work? Should I still leave the temp lowered if it will? Can't find Kanaplex anywhere in person.
 

Whitewolf

Member
probably not
 

JLeeM

Member

Whitewolf

Member
Furan is more of an anti-microbial. It would kill the fungus, but that is only on the outside.
The actual infection is always bacterial, and its inside the fish eating away its gills and skin. You need one of the antibiotics I mentioned.
The best one is to just wait and order some Oxytetracycline flake from angelsplus.com Its very broad spectrum, very dependable, works every time if the fish is not too bad off. They use to use it, (probably still do) a lot in the livestock and fish industry.

You might want to just run out and see what you can get, but in the long run you need to order antibiotics and other meds online, because its cheaper, easier to find, and shiping is usually only a few days.
This 3oz bag is acutally big, and will last years!!!
It also covers most all types of bad bacteria that will kill a fish, and is safe to pack them full 3x a day of this antbiotic for up to 10 days. It will not harm your cycle as its in flake form, just take out the dag gone snails
 

Discusluv

Member
Article worth reading:

 

DoubleDutch

Member
thanks for sharing
 

mbkemp

Member
Great read, thank you
 

Racing1113

Member
Interesting read! One question which I'm hoping someone can clarify for me - I was under the impression that since columnaris was gram negative, and erythromycin treated gram positive that it wouldn't work, but it was listed in the list of the low MIC antibiotics along with Kanamycin?
 

Redshark1

Member
I think erythromycin and kanamycin can be used to treat infections caused by some gram positive bacteria, some gram negative bacteria and also some other organisms including some fungi.
 

AvalancheDave

Member
I've seen erythromycin listed as effective in some papers. I'd prefer kanamycin though. One advantage is that you can sometimes find erythromycin locally as Maracyn whereas finding kanamycin locally is next to impossible...

But a good aquarist stocks up on antibiotics before they're needed, right?
 

Redshark1

Member
A lucky aquarist has no need of them in the first place.
 

BettaNovice101

Member
I agree with you, Redshark1! I read that Columnaris does better with two antibiotics, perhaps that's why they state two.
 
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