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Emergency! Kuhli Loach Colony Collapse Help

Discussion in 'Kuhli Loach' started by Troy328, Apr 17, 2019.

  1. Troy328New MemberMember

    Help! I have a sick loach emergency. Before I get into the post, I will answer the sick fish template questions:


    What is the water volume of the tank? - 20 Gallons
    How long has the tank been running? - Around 2 Months
    Does it have a filter? - Yes, HOB
    Does it have a heater? - Yes
    What is the water temperature? - 74 F
    What is the entire stocking of this tank? 10 Kuhli Loaches, down to 6 as of today. They were not fully grown upon arrival.

    How often do you change the water? - Every 1.5 - 2 weeks
    How much of the water do you change? 1/3
    What do you use to treat your water? AquaSafe Plus
    Do you vacuum the substrate or just the water? Honestly, I have yet to vacuum the sand, just the water so far.

    *Parameters - Very Important
    Did you cycle your tank before adding fish? No. Cycled with the Fish, used Seachem Stability.
    What do you use to test the water? API Master Test Kit
    What are your parameters? We need to know the exact numbers, not just “fine” or “safe”.

    Ammonia: 0
    Nitrite: 0
    Nitrate: Currently somewhere Between 10-20 (Very hard to tell between these two on the color chart)
    pH: 8.0

    How often do you feed your fish? 6 times a week, at night.
    How much do you feed your fish? Initially 2 Omega One Shrimp Pellets. Been feeding one pellet lately, due to the losses in the tank. Pellets are 8 mm. I discussed it in this thread: https://www.fishlore.com/aquariumfishforum/threads/how-much-to-feed-kuhli-loaches.393780/
    What brand of food do you feed your fish? Omega One.
    Do you feed frozen or freeze-dried foods? Not yet.

    Illness & Symptoms
    How long have you had this fish? 2 Months
    How long ago did you first notice these symptoms? First death was sudden, no clear symptoms besides trouble breathing, back on March 21st.
    In a few words, can you explain the symptoms? Mostly symptom-less. 4 loaches dead. Only one of them had noticeable symptoms, which is a red ulcer of some kind, and seizure-like twitching.
    Have you started any treatment for the illness? Not yet, that's what I'm here for.
    Was your fish physically ill or injured upon purchase? No. One hasn't been growing as well as the others and has been very skinny, but other than that all of them have been very healthy, and all of the ones that have died have not been the skinny one.
    How has its behavior and appearance changed, if at all? No. Like I said, one of them is skinny, but I can't tell how related this is to the sickness, considering he's made it longer than at least three others.

    Here is a timeline of events:
    • 2/8/19 - Kuhli loaches arrive. All look well. Acclimated to the tank and cycled them over a few days, following the instructions on Seachem Stability, with no problems.
    • 3/21/19 - First death. Noticed one of the loaches, outside of one of its caves, lying partially on its side and looking like it was having a hard time breathing. I dropped everything to get a quarantine tank running, but couldn't get it set up completely due to an insufficient heater. By the next morning, the tank was ready, but the loach was gone. Water parameters were 0-0-10, ph of 8.0
    • 4/2/19 - Second death. Fish was already gone by the time I found him, after coming home from a day of errands. Notably, this occurred around the time of a large spike in brown algae. I have attributed the cause of the algae bloom to increased sunlight exposure from my bedroom window, as it began to grow solely in one corner of the tank before spreading, but perhaps I am incorrect about this? The algae has been mostly eradicated at this point, and sunlight no longer reaches the tank the way it used to. I removed many of the plants from the tank at this time to rid them of algae to help get it under control. I also lifted all of the caves temporarily to inspect all of the loaches to check on their condition. Nothing appeared particularly wrong with any of them, except the smallest one, which hasn't been growing at the same rate as the others and is rather skinny. Water tests came in at 0-0-20. with a ph of 8.2. I did a water change to bring Nitrates down, along with scrubbing the tank for algae, and then put the caves back.
    • 4/16/19 - Third death. This one was disturbing. The loach was out of the caves, while all the others were inside. Loach was slightly on its sideo and occasional bouts of labored breathing which caused for some concern. I immediately rushed to test the water, got a result of 0-0-15? (It's so hard to tell between 10 and 20 on the color chart, somewhere between that.) with a pH of 8.0. While I was waiting for tests to develop, I noticed the loach spasming, with twitchy, seizure-like movements. I managed to grab a video of it, which I will try and post later. Left my room for a few minutes to get a better look at the test results in better lighting, came back in to assess the situation and potentially move the loach to quarantine, but it had already passed. This all happened in a span of 20 minutes, he went that fast. After I retrieved his body, I was able to spot a red ulcer just beyond his gill, which I will post a picture of.
    • 4/17/19 - Noticed another loach out and about in the tank today, while again, the others were hiding in the caves. Nothing seemed particularly wrong, he was moving normally, no particular issues breathing, was back and forth between being inside the caves and outside the caves. Came in later, and he was on his back, belly up, at the bottom of the tank.
    Recurring trends:
    • Loaches seem to go quickly after the onset of rapid breathing, but for the most part the deaths are relatively symptom-less. (all of the loaches were of good color, were other-wise healthy looking individuals, did not exhibit abnormal behavior beforehand, etc.)
    • Does not seem related to the timing of water changes.
    • All of the deaths seem to be occurring in the evening/later in the day? Not sure of the significance of this, though.
    Please help me. I'm at a loss for what to do. I am new to taking care of loaches, I thought I was doing really good for a while. The first death shook me up, but I chalked it up to a freak accident after the water tests came out normal. But clearly something terrible is happening. Up until the loach with the red ulcer, I have had little to go off of in terms of symptoms. Does anyone have any idea what could be causing this? Illness, or something else? The Nitrates? Toxins? Stress? Mourning the loss of these loaches, hoping to do my best for the rest of the ones I have, feeling like a failure, desperate for an answer.

    GRAPHIC WARNING, Attached below is the picture of the dead loach with the red ulcer, so beware. I also have the other side of the loach for comparison:

  2. Skullkong101Valued MemberMember

    I have no idea but that's terrible!!! It's so hard when stuff like this happens! I feel for you!

  3. JamieLuValued MemberMember

    I Know nothing bout loaches but did u use them to cycle the tank? And maybe the small one has an internal parasite of some sort?

  4. FalenaValued MemberMember

    I'm sorry for all your losses, it's devastating when things like this happen. I'm no expert but I keep loaches myself and know that they are sensitive, therefore are not a good fish to cycle a tank with. I've never known a loach to survive a cycle, they should be added to well established aquariums. Did you cycle the tank with them? if so, I suspect they were injured/poisoned during the process and are only now succumbing to it.

    Last edited: Apr 17, 2019
  5. JamieLuValued MemberMember

    Ya, thats y i asked if they were used to cycle cuz i agree, thats prob what caused deaths.
  6. Troy328New MemberMember

    I have considered this about the skinny one, and it is definitely a possibility, but I have been more inclined to believe it is more of a behavioral/genetic thing. He seems more "stunted" than he does "wasting" if that makes sense? Then again, what do I know? I am brand new to keeping loaches, this is just based on my experience with other fish. I still thought it was something to keep in mind though, which is why I mentioned it. The other curious thing is that the skinny one seems to be fine, while other, more healthy looking loaches have been passing. I have not spotted him today, though.

    As for the cycling thing, I mentioned in my initial post that yes, I cycled the tank with them, and used Seachem Stability as directed. However, this process began on February 8th, and lasted about a week. That's a little over two months ago, and I have seen no signs of cycle failure in my tank.
  7. Skullkong101Valued MemberMember

  8. Troy328New MemberMember

    I see now. Interesting. Is it really possible that it would take two months for them to succumb to it? I had no idea they were so sensitive to cycling, I've only been hearing how hardy they have been. :[ I would be heartbroken to find out if this was the cause. This was my first attempt at cycling with fish, and I thought I had done everything right. I even asked for advice about it here on this forum. https://www.fishlore.com/aquariumfi...-cycle-my-20-gallon-tank.389907/#post-3999054
  9. FalenaValued MemberMember

    Your cycle may not have failed , but your loaches organs might have. This doesn't always kill them quickly. Just a suggestion
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2019
  10. Troy328New MemberMember

    Yep, mentioned it in the original post. Tank is about 74/75 degrees Fahrenheit.
  11. FishMommerValued MemberMember

    So sorry for you! If it helps at all I just got a bottle of Microbe-lift Artemiss? Not sure if it would be at all helpful? It is supposed to help boost immune systems? Also it mentions it can be alternated with Microbe-lift Herbtana as a preventative treatment? I hope those left can survive.
  12. Skullkong101Valued MemberMember

    I have no idea what's wrong. But the first tank I did was a fish cycling and every single guppy lived and gave birth to fry! Sad to hear about your loaches though.
  13. Troy328New MemberMember

    I'll be very sad, if that is the case. I wasn't aware that it would take months to be in the clear, I was thinking more like two weeks. But as I mentioned, this was my first attempt at a cycle with fish. I had no idea that Kuhlis were a bad cycling fish, I never would have attempted it had I known. I had never encountered that info in my research, I even mentioned it here once before in a previous thread that I was going to try and attempt a cycle with fish. :[
  14. FalenaValued MemberMember

    It may not be the cause, just seems most likely. Try not to feel too bad about it, these things happen, unfortunately, and It is very upsetting I understand. fish in cycling is quite a task and does take time and dedication, you have to be especially diligent with sensitive species, sometimes performing multiple tests and water changes in a single day . Hopefully, whatever loaches you have left make it and now the cycle is done with, if it is completely stable and your loaches show no sign of illness over the coming month you could get them some more buddies. For now just focus on the living ones, feed them well with good quality food, keep a close eye on them and keep the water pristine with at least 25% water changes every week. I wish you and your little squirms the best of luck !
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2019
  15. Troy328New MemberMember

    Thank you for the advice and the condolences, I will keep this in mind. Very heartbroken by the losses that I've experienced already, but at least I have some type of theory as to what might be happening to them. Even if it's not true, it feels better than being completely clueless. I will do my best to take care of the ones I still have while I got them.
  16. Troy328New MemberMember

    Thanks again to everyone who pitched in, I'll come back if I have anything to add to the situation, or if someone else adds something.
  17. spikyfishNew MemberMember

    I am not too sure but isn't a ph of 8.0 too high for Kuhli Loaches? I thought they liked more around 6 to 7. Maybe this is reason for the deaths. Again I am not an exert so this is just an idea.
  18. Troy328New MemberMember

    This is something I haven't considered too much, maybe someone else can chime in with their thoughts on this? When I was doing my research, I found that while Kuhlis do better in a lower ph, they can handle higher phs, and I found many people who have reported having Kuhli's in high ph without any problems, some of which were on this forum, I think. As with most fish, I read that keeping a stable ph is more important than chasing an ideal ph, so I have tried to keep the ph stable. Then again, I was potentially wrong about the thing about kuhli loaches beeing ok as cycling fish, so maybe I'm wrong with this too?
  19. FishMommerValued MemberMember

    As I understand it you are correct on the above post, :) but somehow you might have missed the note on the cycling. :( Easy to do. I found when looking up things about what to stock on our current aquarium sometimes it was easy to forget this or that detail. I made a quick list of tank size, ph, temp., and any other random mention for each potential to see if things matched well enough, when putting together the plan for the one we are doing now. We will be getting Kuhli's as well, but waiting to add them last. I too ended up doing a fish-in (long story), but with Gourami's. It was with TSS+ but nothing related to it that I can tell? I did use a little filter media and tank water so maybe that helped a bit. And plants. I can already see the effect the plants are having - esp. vs. the other which only has a moss ball. :)
  20. FalenaValued MemberMember