Curing ICH Naturally

  • #1
It is important to be aware of the phases of the ICH life cycle when attempting to treat this disease as it can weaken the fish, compromise their immune systems, lead to secondary disease, and death.


The ICH disease goes through different stages as follows:

*First stage is the parasitic phase. During this phase the spores are in the tank (debatable how these spores get into the tank and not the purpose of this posting), but you are not aware of its existence. The spores are very tiny and cannot be seen with the naked eye.

*The spores imbed themselves into the fish skin. It is the fish's immune system that builds up cells to cover the spore in an attempt to heal its body. It is the fish immune system that actually creates the white spots that we can see with our eyes. During this phase the spores are completely covered, protected if you will, by the fish cells. And, during this phase the disease CANNOT BE TREATED SUCCESSFULLY.

As the immune system is working to remove the spores from the fish body, it can weaken the fish and lead to secondary infections. Once the immune system is able to detach the spores from the body, they will begin to drop off.

*While detached from the fish, the ICH spores begin to reproduce. A single spore can divide into hundreds, even thousands, of new spores. These new spores then attach themselves to your fish and the cycle repeats itself until either the spores are removed from the tank or the fish succumbs.

With each cycle the spores increase in volume and the immune system is unable to ward off subsequent attacks. This is why it is critical to begin treatment immediately, while the fish are at their strongest.


Begin by raising the water temperature to 86F/30C. As changes in temperature can have a negative impact to fish, it is important to only raise the temperature 1-2 degrees per hour. Further, it has been shown that the ICH spores begin to die at this temperature. So, make sure you maintain this temperature through the entire treatment.

Keep the temperature elevated for 14-days. Yes, 2 full weeks! Do not be fooled into thinking the ICH is cured when it begins falling off the fish. ICH typically runs in 7-10 day cycles until removed from the tank.

Add extra oxygen lines to ensure the water stays completely saturated with oxygen to minimize fish stress. Warmer water is not able to hold as much oxygen.

Do 30-50% water changes 2-3 times per week. Make sure the fresh water is warmed to 86F/30C.

If there is ANY measurable ammonia or nitrites, indicating the tank is no longer cycled, do daily water changes during this 14-day treatment. Continue with daily water changes until the tank becomes cycled and stable. No point in curing ICH and not dealing with the waste.

Deep clean the substrate, cleaning no more than 1/3 the gravel bed with each cleaning. Shove the gravel tube completely through the substrate to the bottom glass plate and do not move it until all debris has lifted. Then, move the tube about an inch and repeat. Move decor items to clean under them as this is where uneaten foods and other waste tends to collect.

Do not worry about how much gravel is cleaned, so long as you are able to lift all debris and so long as you do not clean more than 1/3 as this could lead to a mini-cycle.

When the ICH falls off the fish, it is these gravel cleanings that remove it from your tank. If it isn't removed then the ICH spores will again attach themselves to the fish body.

With a sand bottom tank, move the cleaner over the surface. Sand is great as all debris sits on top and doesn't filter down like it can with gravel substrates.

Planted tanks are a bit tricky. In all open areas, thoroughly deep clean the gravel; but when plants have rooted, do a surface scan over the roots and at the base of the plants.

When there are no signs of the spores, after the full treatment, then slowly lower the water temperature down to the preferred level. Again, no more than 1-2 degrees per hour.

Soak fish foods in freshly minced garlic as fresh garlic is a great immune booster plus it has mild antibiotic properties to help ward off secondary infections. Using a garlic press is great for this! Mix fresh garlic with a few drops of water and soak the foods; feed food and garlic to fish, but only as much as they can eat.

While I prefer freshly mincing garlic due to the antibiotic properties that are quickly lost to oxidation, using bottled minced garlic is a good alternative. Just make sure it isn't bottled in oils or it will foul your water.

Treatment can be repeated if ICH is still present.

Ever since I began treating my tanks this way, I have never had a repeat episode of ICH, unless I added new fish or plants which may have been carriers.

Good luck treating your fish. Save your money on medicines for when they are really necessary. Or, better yet, use your savings to purchase new fish, plants or equipment.
  • #2
Good way to rid of ich naturally! I will use this if I need to!
  • #3
This is a good Article. I'm always afraid of adding chemicals to the water other than Dechlor, now with this il know what to do without adding
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
I am glad to hear you found this information helpful.
  • #5
WOWW! I just got cherry barbs in my 20 gallon and they brought along a little bit of ich from the pet store so I will use this methodd on my tank right away. Have you heard about using aqaurium salt to cure it? If so how much per gallon and how many doses? Thanks so much!
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
As many fish and live plants do not tolerate salt, I do not recommend it. It can cause more stress as well as irritate the gills and slime coat.
  • #7
LOVE IT, never seen it written out so well. I have only had ich twice once I did the natural method(with addition of salt) and once with the addition of kordon ichremover+
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
Thank you. As salt causes irritation and most ich meds kill inverts and snails, I do not like to use them. And, this method has never failed me.
  • #9
I reccomend the use of salt with a vairety of species, including bettas(who bennifit with 1tsp pergallon, regularly). I have treated barbs, gourami and danios all using salt and have never seen any irritation, only a relaxed fish that's getting treated for ich/velvet/finrot
  • #10
wow great info I can use this as my fish some how got sick over night
  • #11
Thanks for this information, it helps a lot. I am starting treatment now.
  • #12
Thanks for the great info!
  • #13
Thanks for this! I'm wondering...I have the Aqueon QuietFlow 10 which is supposed to aerate the water. Should I get a pump and airstone? For now, I lowered the water level to generate more splash/bubbles.
  • Thread Starter
  • #14
It is best to use an air pump. Lowering the water level will help, but you will need to monitor your fish for any signs of a lack of oxygen.

Welcome to the forum!!
  • #15
Thanks so much for getting back to to the LPS...AGAIN )
  • #16
I'm now on day 3 of my raised temperature. Unfortunately, the ich got to one of my clown loaches first. I found one dead this morning I added a small amount of salt with my last water change (5 Tablespoons). I'm hoping the spores start falling off my other fish soon. I have a couple giant danios with spots now as well as my other clown loach. I have a couple other fish that are rubbing up against the substrate and decorations as well. My tank is raised to 88-90 on the heater, but my thermometer is only reading around 84 and they are on opposite halves of my 55. My cord doesn't reach, otherwise I'd move my heater to the middle of the tank. I have an air pump hooked up to my sponge filter and a decoration, should I be looking at getting more aeration? Almost all my fish (except my pleco and raphael) are hanging around my Penguin 350's out flow. Is this a sign of a lack of oxygen?
  • Thread Starter
  • #17
Welcome to Fishlore.

Unfortunately, Clown Loaches are scaleless fish that do not tolerate salts. So is your pleco.

My recommendation is to do the largest possible water change. Something around 75% or more to remove as much salt as possible. Purchase another heater to raise the tank temperature up to 86F. The lower temperature will not kill the parasites.

And, I also suggest purchasing another thermometer so you can measure water temperature at both ends of the tank. If the temperature is not even across the tank, then your water current is too slow to fully circulate the tank. This could explain why your fish a concentrating near the filter return.

Good luck.
  • #18
  • Thread Starter
  • #19
Is this treatment safe for Nerite snails?

I do not believe snails can tolerate the higher heat levels. It would be best to remove them first.
Downward Dog
  • #20
I just had my first Ich outbreak! It was the day I put my new, quarantined-for-3-weeks Barbs in my new tank. I immediately noticed, in the new light, one of the barbs had Ich. So back into the Q tank they went, and I slowly raised the temp and added some salt. They are fine now and now back in my main tank. However, I did notice that my Tetra in my main tank had spots and I removed him to the Q tank -- he died overnight:-( So, I can only assume that the Ich is in my main tank -- because I have corydoras I will not add salt but I have to raise the temp and treat my main tank as the Q tank, yes? Ugh. Any idea how my snail will react to the raised temp? And should I bleach my Q tank or just clean and vacuum it thoroughly since the raised temps should have killed the Ich?
  • #21
Awesome thread. I noticed today that my fish are also showing signs of ich, I can see the spots on their tails. I have to purchase a modifable heater since the current one I have only keeps it at around 79. I also noticed some deteoration one one of the platies tails, not sure if the other femaile nipped it or if that is caused by some other type of disease. Thanks again for the info!!
  • #22
Great Read!
  • #23
I'm currently doing the heat up method as you mention, I am also adding aquarium salt to the mix and am wondering if I should have put salt in...
  • #24
Salt doesn't help. expecially when they can't breath as well in hot water, salt water will soffocate a freshwater fish. Same thing with sw fish. Dipping a fish in saltwater for 30 sec will make the parasite die and fall off. But I wouldn't have added salt to the main tank. I would do an 80% wc to get most of it out.

Oh and welcome to Fish lore
welcome aboard

Being a new member I would suggest checking out the stickys in the beginners section. and the nitrogen cycle. it is the most important thing to fish keeping.
  • #25
thank you jd I did stay on the salt for another day and then did a rough 40 percent water change and as of now it seems I have won and also thank you for the tips, ive had fish tanks for 20 years with my dad and ive branched off and went with a 55 gal tank. thank you ALL!!!!!!
  • #26
I've been doing this treatment for just over 2 weeks and yesterday was the first day being completely spot free! Thank goodness, and I haven't lost any fish! There's roughly 15 in the tank, including invertebrates. Raised temps, gravel vac, and garlic in food is key and all fish have responded well. Thank you for info!
  • #27
Sadly I have lost 4 green barbs this week.... And now I know why,, seems I had a outbreak of ICH overnite,,,, raising water temp. now!!!! Thank you for the helpful information.
  • #28
This may be a silly question but are there any fish that can't handle the natural treatment due to the heat? I just found ich in my QT and will be treating cardinal tetras (the only fish I see that currently has ich spots), panda corys and a bulldog pleco. I would prefer to use the natural method since I've heard so many people have been successful with it.
  • #29
I have not found a fish that could not handle it, and all my fish are subjected to it in quarantine.
  • #30
Thanks for the quick response Jaysee, I have started slowly raising the temperature. I just wanted to double check the safety.
  • #31
WOWW! I just got cherry barbs in my 20 gallon and they brought along a little bit of ich from the pet store so I will use this methodd on my tank right away. Have you heard about using aqaurium salt to cure it? If so how much per gallon and how many doses? Thanks so much!
I have heard of using salt with this method... and I can explain how this works.

some speceis of freshwater fish can handle much harder water then other species. For those species adding salt to the heat treatment for ich promotes a thicker slime coat by slightly irritating the skin. This increase slI'm coat assists the fish by protecting the fish from the next round of spores attaching themselves.
  • Thread Starter
  • #32
I have heard of using salt with this method... and I can explain how this works.

some speceis of freshwater fish can handle much harder water then other species. For those species adding salt to the heat treatment for ich promotes a thicker slime coat by slightly irritating the skin. This increase slI'm coat assists the fish by protecting the fish from the next round of spores attaching themselves.

While this is a good explanation of how salt works, many species and plants will not tolerate salted water.

Further, it is best to take steps to remove the parasites from the tank.
  • #33
hI I think I have this problem too I had 5 clown loaches 5 barbs 4 upside down cat fish and 4 otos and 2 new plants after two days I saw ich on my loaches and they started to hide and didnt want food then the cat fish done the same I have put one course of ich in the tank 180liters but lost 3 loaches since monday so will try the garlic tomorow hope this works

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