5 Gallon Tank Internal Flagellate Problem

WrenFeenix

Member
I have an issue in my quarantine tank with internal flagellates. I feed my fish food laced with Metroplex for a month, and the problem goes away. When I stop, they return within a few weeks and start killing my fish in horrible ways again.
Btw, there are only 2 1/2 female guppies and 1 male guppy in the tank. The flagellates keep killing all the fry and super stressing out the adults. The small male guppy has really bad problems with the flagellates too, but they kill him slower. It's also making the females miscarry, which just has to be awful for them.

Is there a better version of Metroplex/metronitazole?
Would it be a good idea to double the dose of Metroplex? It is working, just not good enough.
 

Demeter

Member
Perhaps look for other medicated foods. I just recently ordered from angel fish plus and they have a good selection of medicated flakes. Haven't started using the medicated flakes yet but their reviews seem good.


Also, may want to check you pH, GH and KH. If not kept in harder water livebearers will become ill overtime which leads to things like wasting disease and miscarriages. It almost sounds like that's what could be going on with your guppies. As a precaution it may be worth adding crushed coral to the substrate or mineral additives.
 

John58ford

Member
It's possible that if you have been treating with metro via food, and not getting lasting results your dosage in the water column is too low to kill or paralyze freeswimming or eggs. The killing action with most of these meds if actually starvation to the protozoa via paralysis. The eggs, typically with ~2 weeks of dormancy will hatch in the substrate several water changes later to a nice med free environment. Not all flagellates, or protozoa, or even nematode have a free swimming or un-hosted egg stage but many do. I always vacuum hard between doses. After treatment and the final vacuum I dose the treated tank with a flocculant and increase my mechanical filtration (extra filter floss) to catch anything drifting in the column, disposing the floss (usually very dirty after flocculant) the next day and then run the carbon for a day.

One med I have found to be more effective than metro for the nematodes I have had issues with is levamisol, it is more soluble in water, easy to dose by weight, and it's specific gravity is small enough it can actually be taken through the water column effectively. I don't know how it would do against what you are fighting with, but it's inexpensive and not too hard on the tank. A high dose may kill snails, and the ever so handy detritus worms but at the typical recommended dose snails usually do just fine, though sluggish.

Just a curiosity, not that it matters much but I do nerd out on science; You specify a flaggelette protozoa in your op, how did you verify this?
 
  • Thread Starter

WrenFeenix

Member
Demeter said:
Perhaps look for other medicated foods. I just recently ordered from angel fish plus and they have a good selection of medicated flakes. Haven't started using the medicated flakes yet but their reviews seem good.


Also, may want to check you pH, GH and KH. If not kept in harder water livebearers will become ill overtime which leads to things like wasting disease and miscarriages. It almost sounds like that's what could be going on with your guppies. As a precaution it may be worth adding crushed coral to the substrate or mineral additives.
I add aggronite fossils to my tank to make the water harder:
pH- 7.4-7.6
GH- 300+ppm
KH- 80ppm
Are these readings okay? I can add more.

I’ll check out Angelfish Plus medicated foods. These guppies are so cute and chummy with each other, I don’t want to lose any of them.

John58ford said:
It's possible that if you have been treating with metro via food, and not getting lasting results your dosage in the water column is too low to kill or paralyze freeswimming or eggs. The killing action with most of these meds if actually starvation to the protozoa via paralysis. The eggs, typically with ~2 weeks of dormancy will hatch in the substrate several water changes later to a nice med free environment. Not all flagellates, or protozoa, or even nematode have a free swimming or un-hosted egg stage but many do. I always vacuum hard between doses. After treatment and the final vacuum I dose the treated tank with a flocculant and increase my mechanical filtration (extra filter floss) to catch anything drifting in the column, disposing the floss (usually very dirty after flocculant) the next day and then run the carbon for a day.

One med I have found to be more effective than metro for the nematodes I have had issues with is levamisol, it is more soluble in water, easy to dose by weight, and it's specific gravity is small enough it can actually be taken through the water column effectively. I don't know how it would do against what you are fighting with, but it's inexpensive and not too hard on the tank. A high dose may kill snails, and the ever so handy detritus worms but at the typical recommended dose snails usually do just fine, though sluggish.

Just a curiosity, not that it matters much but I do nerd out on science; You specify a flaggelette protozoa in your op, how did you verify this?
I was wondering if I should put it in the water column, but I heard ingesting it worked best. I was reluctant to put more meds in because I have a hunch that the meds are causing the females to miscarry. They seem to be doing better tho.

I made an educated guess that it was flagellates from the symptoms, my Merck Manual, and the fact that metro was working (they quickly gain back weight too) but I haven’t taken a microscope and looked.
I just realized, I should do that since I have access to microscopes at school and I do fecal floats on a regular basis anyway. Well, better late than never. I’ll get back to you in a week when I can use the lab next. If I do find nematodes, I’ll try Levamisole.

I should get my own microscope too. It would make fish keeping way more interesting.
 

John58ford

Member
WrenFeenix said:
Merck Manual
WrenFeenix said:
fecal floats
WrenFeenix said:
microscope
You have spoken a bunch of my favorite language here. I agree to treating to symptoms as indicated by a reference manual, and using elimination based selection in similar indication via med selection. The merck is a little vague on final isolation in the exotic and aquarium fishes section but it typically gets you in the right ballpark. The ncbi.nlm and it's reference sources have helped me out allot but I bet as a student with access to a lab you will exceed my skills/abilities/resources pretty quickly.

I agree that to get prazi or metro into a fish, food is the best way, but it will have no significant impact on free swimmers or intermediate forms. It would work fine in a lab style bare hospital tank with a ton of UV sterilized turnover and cleaning but probably not so much in a home QT with any decor and limited water turnover, especially since these smaller tanks are very hard to design a sterilizer for. That said, you could likely combine a water column treatment of prazi or metro (as appropriate per diagnosis) while using the same medicine in a food form simultaneously.

If after you do your fecal sample it seems appropriate, you should not need to make a levamisol food to get it into the fish like the other two due to the larger size of their makeup. Somewhere back a long while ago on the forum here I posted numbers on the weight of these meds and both of the two common meds (prazi and metro based on the form that api documents using in the MSDS for general cure) are so large it's impossible to take in via natural osmosis. The secondary advantage is the cost per gallon of treatment, but in a small tank that isn't really much to consider.

With my live-bearers I have had occasional but rare (maybe every 6-7 months) recurences of capillaria so I have focused most of my attention in this area to nematode, my first positive identification was by microscope while referencing university of Florida's work:"Cir 91/FA091: Nematode (Roundworm) Infections in Fish" Cir 91/FA091: Nematode (Roundworm) Infections in Fish
I'm also running a small breeding project for the enjoyment of myself and my children in moderately planted show tanks connected to a central sump so paying a little less was a significant advantage for me. It can cost well over $150 a week to treat that system with API or fritz/mardel products, but I can treat similarly with off label meds like Levamed for less than $1 per week.

I'll follow along here, curious how your treatment and symptom elaboration goes.
 
  • Thread Starter

WrenFeenix

Member
John58ford said:
You have spoken a bunch of my favorite language here. I agree to treating to symptoms as indicated by a reference manual, and using elimination based selection in similar indication via med selection. The merck is a little vague on final isolation in the exotic and aquarium fishes section but it typically gets you in the right ballpark. The ncbi.nlm and it's reference sources have helped me out allot but I bet as a student with access to a lab you will exceed my skills/abilities/resources pretty quickly.

I agree that to get prazi or metro into a fish, food is the best way, but it will have no significant impact on free swimmers or intermediate forms. It would work fine in a lab style bare hospital tank with a ton of UV sterilized turnover and cleaning but probably not so much in a home QT with any decor and limited water turnover, especially since these smaller tanks are very hard to design a sterilizer for. That said, you could likely combine a water column treatment of prazi or metro (as appropriate per diagnosis) while using the same medicine in a food form simultaneously.

If after you do your fecal sample it seems appropriate, you should not need to make a levamisol food to get it into the fish like the other two due to the larger size of their makeup. Somewhere back a long while ago on the forum here I posted numbers on the weight of these meds and both of the two common meds (prazi and metro based on the form that api documents using in the MSDS for general cure) are so large it's impossible to take in via natural osmosis. The secondary advantage is the cost per gallon of treatment, but in a small tank that isn't really much to consider.

With my live-bearers I have had occasional but rare (maybe every 6-7 months) recurences of capillaria so I have focused most of my attention in this area to nematode, my first positive identification was by microscope while referencing university of Florida's work:"Cir 91/FA091: Nematode (Roundworm) Infections in Fish" Cir 91/FA091: Nematode (Roundworm) Infections in Fish
I'm also running a small breeding project for the enjoyment of myself and my children in moderately planted show tanks connected to a central sump so paying a little less was a significant advantage for me. It can cost well over $150 a week to treat that system with API or fritz/mardel products, but I can treat similarly with off label meds like Levamed for less than $1 per week.

I'll follow along here, curious how your treatment and symptom elaboration goes.
Holy moley, man, you know your stuff! You sound like a regular marine vet! If I only find flagellates, I’ll add metro to the water as well as the food. Thanks!
I was thinking of doing a direct smear since I will never have enough guppy poo to fill an entire vial. What do you think? I’ll take pictures and post them as well.

Ah, NCBI. So nice that I don’t need to use a subscription service to read the articles anymore. I used to really like the Nature journal, but it seems to have vanished, but the articles show up on PMC, so that’s nice. The name PubMed still gives me flashbacks to 10+ years ago, when it was a very disappointing place.
 

John58ford

Member
WrenFeenix said:
Holy moley, man, you know your stuff! You sound like a regular marine vet! If I only find flagellates, I’ll add metro to the water as well as the food. Thanks!
I was thinking of doing a direct smear since I will never have enough guppy poo to fill an entire vial. What do you think? I’ll take pictures and post them as well.

Ah, NCBI. So nice that I don’t need to use a subscription service to read the articles anymore. I used to really like the Nature journal, but it seems to have vanished, but the articles show up on PMC, so that’s nice. The name PubMed still gives me flashbacks to 10+ years ago, when it was a very disappointing place.
I have been doing a nonconventional float method that seems to work ok, my attempts at a direct smear either had to much secondary bacteria, or I wasn't get the lighting I needed to see what I was looking for at the 300-700 range. Whenever I have tried to sterilize a sample for direct smear it falls apart so I end up with a suspension anyways. What has worked for me is using a sterilized contact lens case instead of vial to sterilize and suspend my samples, then I do quick wet mounts with a dropper. I'm doing all my stuff home brew, all the fixatives and dye solutions I had left in my student kit from 20 years ago were dried up so I worked out what I could do at such a small scale with stuff on hand.

I know how to research but I'm no marine vet, though after first retirement I may pursue a career in that field as it really has me interested. I wish there was instruction and access available to more of the general public for services like this that weren't considered "specialist" and priced so far out that people medicate indescriminantly vs getting a genuine diagnosis. I've buried myself in the books to avoid wasting money on the wrong treatment or losing fish. I think there's allot of fear of loss and shame driving the prices of the "popular" aquarium meds out there through the roof. API and fritz both know full well that no one is going to see the vet and their products fly off the shelves like snake oil in the old west. The worst part is there isn't even a guide referenced in the instructions for the average consumer to figure out how to treat by elimination.
 
  • Thread Starter

WrenFeenix

Member
John58ford said:
I have been doing a nonconventional float method that seems to work ok, my attempts at a direct smear either had to much secondary bacteria, or I wasn't get the lighting I needed to see what I was looking for at the 300-700 range. Whenever I have tried to sterilize a sample for direct smear it falls apart so I end up with a suspension anyways. What has worked for me is using a sterilized contact lens case instead of vial to sterilize and suspend my samples, then I do quick wet mounts with a dropper. I'm doing all my stuff home brew, all the fixatives and dye solutions I had left in my student kit from 20 years ago were dried up so I worked out what I could do at such a small scale with stuff on hand.

I know how to research but I'm no marine vet, though after first retirement I may pursue a career in that field as it really has me interested. I wish there was instruction and access available to more of the general public for services like this that weren't considered "specialist" and priced so far out that people medicate indescriminantly vs getting a genuine diagnosis. I've buried myself in the books to avoid wasting money on the wrong treatment or losing fish. I think there's allot of fear of loss and shame driving the prices of the "popular" aquarium meds out there through the roof. API and fritz both know full well that no one is going to see the vet and their products fly off the shelves like snake oil in the old west. The worst part is there isn't even a guide referenced in the instructions for the average consumer to figure out how to treat by elimination.
Go for it man!!! If you’re this on point as a hobbyist, you’ll make a phenomenal professional!
I’m studying to be a vet tech, and while diagnostics is outside of our scope, one of the classes I need to take is Health and Disease of Aquarium Fish. I’m stoked for that one!
My pathology class exclusively deals with parasites, so a lot of poop is involved and it’s NOT sterile in the slightest. Despite this, I’ve never had a issue with bacterial contamination. Hmm... Are your samples fresh? If not, do you freeze your samples until you use them? We also mix up our samples in Dixie cups with popsicle sticks, so we don’t reuse many containers. Floats involve glass vials that are autoclaved afterwards, but I think a small quantity of fish poop doesn’t require a float if it’s puréed (mixed well) with a tiny bit of distilled water first. Most of the floats I do are for animals with considerably chunkier poop, like horses. However, my favorite suspension medium for floats is a solution of magnesium sulfate aka Epsom salt mixed with water. Works well for most specimens without distorting them or making a crystallized mess.

For visibility, I love microscopes fitted with an iris diaphragm and condenser. Too much light can overwhelm images. I usually have the condenser adjusted to make the most image contrast. Things that were previously invisible suddenly show up. I hardly ever use stains.

The only time I used a direct smear in class was for Giardia, a tiny protozoan. Giardia specifically are really hard to find, even with stains like Lugol’s iodine. I think one of my classmates found one once, I certainly haven’t. Even on prepared slides.

General Cure. The worst name for an anti-parasitic med in the history of the universe. I worked at a pet store, and it was the most popular med by far solely because of the name. Working in retail, I’m used to snake oil products, but what bugs me about most fish meds is that they technically aren’t snake oil. They’re actual medications that people are just dumping into their tanks all willy-nilly. There’s already enough problems with resistance as it is! If only more people took fish seriously, more marine vets would be around because they could actually make a living.
 
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WrenFeenix

Member
Well, things suddenly took a bit of a downturn. This morning I noticed my largest female, Lemon, came down with severe dropsy overnight. I suspect it's sepsis from retaining miscarried fry. She expelled them on Monday, and seemed to be doing okay. My male guppy (no official name yet, but nicknamed Mancake) came down with severe dropsy nearly 2 months ago, but he survived, so hopefully Lemon will too. I turned the light off and added Kanaplex, but I intended to put it in food starting tomorrow so I can keep the light on. I'll give Lemon and Blacktip, another female suspected to be impacted with miscarried fry, daily Epsom salt baths and water changes.

Goodness gracious, these guppies have been a hot mess from the start! They're lucky they're so gosh darn cute.
 
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WrenFeenix

Member
Unfortunately, Lemon passed away.
She went down so fast: severe dropsy overnight, then dead before noon. I have no idea what happened; she’s been one tough cookie the entire time I’ve had her, so I’m really surprised.

Blacktip still hasn’t expelled any fry, so I’m really worried about her. She’s behaving normally, but is very boxy. I’ve been giving her daily baths, but they’ve only made her poop like crazy so far.
Mancake has been harassing her a lot, but she doesn’t really seem to care. There’s a rather large female fry that seems to be playing as Blacktip’s body guard and will chase him off occasionally. I wonder if she’s Lemon’s daughter...

Here’s a picture of Lemon with Mancake. Blacktip is photobombing in the lower left corner.

She was a big girl at 2 inches long. I got her when she was less than an inch long.
 
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WrenFeenix

Member
Finally!!! I managed to get to the lab and look at a sample! Lab finals were last week, so I actually had to arrange extra time outside class to use a microscope.
Unfortunately, I didn't find anything. No nematodes or worms of any kind, no protozoans, no eggs, nothing. Just debris. That doesn't mean they aren't there; the sample I had may have been a dud. I asked my teacher to look at it, and he didn't see anything either. I'll see if I can try again with another sample, but campus is already starting to shut down for the year, so it may be too late (It just occurred to me; I should've examined the water too. I'm so forgetful:mad.
I'll stop Metroplex for now since I didn't see anything, but I will continue giving Blacktip Kanaplex in food since she hasn't expelled her fry yet and Lemon went down so fast from infection. She seems to be doing alright, but is still very bloated. Does anyone know how to induce labor in guppies? The Epsom salt baths only make her poop.

I think it would be a really good idea to invest in my own microscope, slides, and coverslips. Then I could do skin scrapings and other tests too. I was looking at this one: Amazon.com: AmScope M620C-E1 Digital Compound Monocular Microscope, WF10x and WF25x Eyepieces, 40x-2500x Magnification, Brightfield, LED Illumination, Abbe Condenser, Mechanical Stage, 110V, Includes 1.3MP Camera and Software: Electronics
Somewhat pricey, but it has the features I need and a camera, because my phone can't focus past microscope eyepieces for some reason.
 

John58ford

Member
WrenFeenix said:
Finally!!! I managed to get to the lab and look at a sample! Lab finals were last week, so I actually had to arrange extra time outside class to use a microscope.
Unfortunately, I didn't find anything. No nematodes or worms of any kind, no protozoans, no eggs, nothing. Just debris. That doesn't mean they aren't there; the sample I had may have been a dud. I asked my teacher to look at it, and he didn't see anything either. I'll see if I can try again with another sample, but campus is already starting to shut down for the year, so it may be too late (It just occurred to me; I should've examined the water too. I'm so forgetful:mad.
I'll stop Metroplex for now since I didn't see anything, but I will continue giving Blacktip Kanaplex in food since she hasn't expelled her fry yet and Lemon went down so fast from infection. She seems to be doing alright, but is still very bloated. Does anyone know how to induce labor in guppies? The Epsom salt baths only make her poop.

I think it would be a really good idea to invest in my own microscope, slides, and coverslips. Then I could do skin scrapings and other tests too. I was looking at this one: Amazon.com: AmScope M620C-E1 Digital Compound Monocular Microscope, WF10x and WF25x Eyepieces, 40x-2500x Magnification, Brightfield, LED Illumination, Abbe Condenser, Mechanical Stage, 110V, Includes 1.3MP Camera and Software: Electronics
Somewhat pricey, but it has the features I need and a camera, because my phone can't focus past microscope eyepieces for some reason.
Bummer you didn't find anything. As far as the trying to encourage birth, the best I have found is a fresh waterchange (not a modified ph one or anything like you would do for some other species) and while the water is low, remove the other inhabitants. This isn't always an option, and really only works if she is at the full term, but it's worth a try. If no fry within 2-3 days just put everything back to normal.

That microscope is awesome, my old student model only does 750x, and my stereo is 45x. I really do like having the objective lamp, but I know when you really need that you can always make do with a well aimed flexible spotlight.

Good luck as you proceed, hopefully you can keep getting this sorted.
 
  • Thread Starter

WrenFeenix

Member
I got my microscope, and I found some things this time! This sample was really fresh; Blacktip pooped, then I immediately ground it up and put in on a slide. I have no idea what any of these things are yet. I'm going to work on identifying them. I'll look at a water sample later, too.
Btw, Blacktip is still behaving normal, but she's still bloated.
40x mag
The first pic might be an egg of some kind. Most of the species circled in the 2nd pic that I found were dead and broken up, but the pieces were everywhere. They appeared to be eating either poop or mucus in the poop, not sure. This one was also pretty fast.
100x mag
This thing has a flagella that it uses to swim forward. It flips around and is bean-shaped when on its side. It also has 2 dots in the center, it's very small, and it's very fast. I found a lot of these.
40x mag
Idk what this is at all. It looked like it had a cloud of gnats swarming around one end. Maybe it's being attacked? I only found one of these.
 

John58ford

Member
Nice stuff, the one in the second pic looks just like the Spironucleus example in the merckvet.

In the 3rd photo, at 100x the thing that caught my eye are all the perfect capsule shapes to the right of the bean shaped flagellate. They may be eggs of a nematode like capillaria, and it's possible at scale that photo 2 is a larval stage nematode. I'm not sure of the scale and magnifications though, I could be way off in size.

Flyer here and yes I want everything to be capillaria lol. But would the empty folded casing in the right of the second picture scale correctly with the capsules in the other photos scale to look like this example from UoF?
"FA-113/FA113: Common Freshwater Fish Parasites Pictorial Guide: Nematodes" FA-113/FA113: Common Freshwater Fish Parasites Pictorial Guide: Nematodes

I will be honest though there are some protozoa shaped biome in there, and I just am not that good at identification.

I've been seeing some posts by a newer member here that may be able to point us in a good direction for some identification plates. Aprilbeingbasic , do you have any experience in identification or elimination of parasite in fecal samples of finfish? Sorry if I'm off on your specialties but you seem to have some education in areas somewhat related.
 

Aprilbeingbasic

Member
John58ford said:
Nice stuff, the one in the second pic looks just like the Spironucleus example in the merckvet.

In the 3rd photo, at 100x the thing that caught my eye are all the perfect capsule shapes to the right of the bean shaped flagellate. They may be eggs of a nematode like capillaria, and it's possible at scale that photo 2 is a larval stage nematode. I'm not sure of the scale and magnifications though, I could be way off in size.

Flyer here and yes I want everything to be capillaria lol. But would the empty folded casing in the right of the second picture scale correctly with the capsules in the other photos scale to look like this example from UoF?
"FA-113/FA113: Common Freshwater Fish Parasites Pictorial Guide: Nematodes" FA-113/FA113: Common Freshwater Fish Parasites Pictorial Guide: Nematodes

I will be honest though there are some protozoa shaped biome in there, and I just am not that good at identification.

I've been seeing some posts by a newer member here that may be able to point us in a good direction for some identification plates. Aprilbeingbasic , do you have any experience in identification or elimination of parasite in fecal samples of finfish? Sorry if I'm off on your specialties but you seem to have some education in areas somewhat related.
Hey thankyou very much for noticing me haha unfortunately my experience is in environmental microbiology specifically to do with soil and mining waste. Because I am new to fish keeping i won't give any advice here. I would need time to read up in this and OP seems very capable, im also looking into a home microscope! My general understanding of bacteria means I've given advice on the cycle and have an easier time reading studies about basic diseases. Wish I could be more help! I have done isolation plates for soil before.... I would definitely be interested in learning more about doing this for fish diagnosis
 
  • Thread Starter

WrenFeenix

Member
John58ford said:
Nice stuff, the one in the second pic looks just like the Spironucleus example in the merckvet.

In the 3rd photo, at 100x the thing that caught my eye are all the perfect capsule shapes to the right of the bean shaped flagellate. They may be eggs of a nematode like capillaria, and it's possible at scale that photo 2 is a larval stage nematode. I'm not sure of the scale and magnifications though, I could be way off in size.

Flyer here and yes I want everything to be capillaria lol. But would the empty folded casing in the right of the second picture scale correctly with the capsules in the other photos scale to look like this example from UoF?
"FA-113/FA113: Common Freshwater Fish Parasites Pictorial Guide: Nematodes" FA-113/FA113: Common Freshwater Fish Parasites Pictorial Guide: Nematodes

I will be honest though there are some protozoa shaped biome in there, and I just am not that good at identification.

I've been seeing some posts by a newer member here that may be able to point us in a good direction for some identification plates. Aprilbeingbasic , do you have any experience in identification or elimination of parasite in fecal samples of finfish? Sorry if I'm off on your specialties but you seem to have some education in areas somewhat related.
I found some worm-shaped objects, but none of them were noticeably moving and the "heads" didn't look like any of the capillaria I've seen or in the article link you posted. They all had kind of cup-shaped heads.
100x mag
This one is a big, and is spiky-looking. The others were tiny and looked more like roundworms, but also with the cup-shaped head. Larvae maybe?
400x mag
This is the best shot I could get of the nematode-looking eggs.

AAAAAAA I FOUND IT! Eustrongylides can have the cup-shaped heads! And eustrongylides-type eggs were everywhere on the slide! They also might be capillaria, but the eggs don't look like capillaria eggs I've seen. I'll get some levamisole.
Looks like it was nematodes all along. Dang nematodes...
 

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