lockjaw in porcupine puffer

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puffermom

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Our 13 year old porcupine puffer has stopped eating for the past two weeks. We suspect lock jaw. How can this be treated? He is the only fish in the tank with only live rock. He is normally very social with us and this hasn't changed.
 

Butterfly

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Welcome to FiahLore!
I'm sorry you haven't gotten an answer yet . Let me if I can find some help for you. hang in there.
Carol
 

pinkfloydpuffer

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Lockjaw is a tough one. Before I'd try any treatments, I'd make sure that the water parameters are pristine. If he is just refusing to eat then I'd suspect something besides lockjaw, particularly water conditions. With lockjaw you will most likely see them trying to eat but not being able to open their mouths wide enough to do so. What's your reading on ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, SG?
 
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puffermom

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Thank you so much for responding. Our water parameters are perfect, just the pH was off (8.2). My husband did a water change about a week into Puffy's hunger strike. I don't know what the reading was before, but on Saturday he added a buffer.

We rarely do any testing with the tank, just salinity when water needs to be added since the system is so well-balanced. He's the only fish in there with no coral or any invertebrates since our Tang died a couple of years ago and the two of them were always healthy unless we tried to mess with the tank too much.

The fish store over the weekend warned us about raising the pH too much since he might be used to it the way it is. They also gave us some squid to try. Before we put in the squid, we pour in the juice so he can smell it and "wet" his taste buds. But when the squid gets put in, he seems to go after it really excitedly, but doesn't eat. It's really heartbreaking to watch. I liken it to me starving for 2 weeks and then someone dangling a cheesecake in front of my face, but not letting me eat it. :-(

Both of the aquarium stores said that there's nothing else we can do but I'm not ready to give up yet. He's part of our family and our kids will be heartbroken if he dies. (He was here long before they were born.)
 

TedsTank

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A remote possiblility is that something could be stuck in his mouth? I have had this happen before, 2 times in my years of keeping fish. One time a piece of shell got stuck and the fish couldn't close his mouth. It was a Koi and I didn't notice soon enough.
 

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Best wishes for your Puffer, Puffermom!

I hope it's going to be ok.

Ken
 

pinkfloydpuffer

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Yes, I would check his mouth, as gently as possible of course. If he really does have lockjaw, the only treatment I've heard of is Iodine. I believe you can treat him with up to 2x the regular amount you'd use for inverts.
 
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puffermom

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Nope. Nothing in his mouth. We fed him the squid tonight and the same thing happened as the last two nights. He goes after the food really excitedly, but doesn't eat and then loses interest and leaves the food to rot at the bottom of the tank.

I'm open to anything. As of right now, he's still looking really good. If I didn't know him so well, I'd say he was fine. But 2 weeks of not eating has never happened in all of the time we've had him.

The only other thing we can think of is that our tank is probably too small for him (40 gallons). He's been the same size for the last few years, though. (about 6-7 inches) The only times he's stopped eating was when he was really sick, with ich several years ago and tail rot about a year and a half ago. He recovered fully from both.

Any other suggestions for treatment besides iodine? How did you hear of it? What is it supposed to do for him? Is lock jaw an infection? How long should we use the iodine?

Thanks for your help.
 

TedsTank

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What is the life span of a puffer?? Thirteens years sounds like a long time...I'm sorry, but it just be getting old?
 

pinkfloydpuffer

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Yeah the small tank is probably part of the problem. He should have grown bigger than that. I've heard from other puffer keepers on the PufferForum about iodine treatment, and really that's the only solution I've ever heard of for lockjaw. I'm not certain on it as I have never had the problem myself, but from what I've read just use the normal dosing for the iodine (whatever it says to do on the bottle) and keep trying to feed him.
 
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puffermom

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I know he's old, but I would think if he were just ready to die, he'd go behind the rocks and seem depressed. On the contrary, he's just as social as ever, if not more. All day long he seems to be begging for food, swimming back and forth in the tank and going crazy when we come close.

Thanks for your advice. I'll let you know if he comes around.
:-(
 

raincloud

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how to cure a pufferfish from lockjaw

aww, this makes me sad... i'm thinking your puffer probably ended up dying.

i don't currently have a puffer fish, but i did years back and he stopped eating for a week or more. at that point he was still just a baby, a year or so old. at the time my ex & i had read stuff online and found that it was most likely lockjaw..

now my memories on this are a little fuzzy on the details, but from what i thought we read was that if they aren't getting enough of the proper vitamins they can get lockjaw. in order to save him, i remember putting him in a small tank and force feeding him heavy vitamin rich concoctions i blended up, by way of a large syringe (i think it was for injecting marinades into turkeys, no sharp metal parts). this did save him.

we were in the Houston, TX area and after this incident made sure to always drop liquid vitamins on his food. got the vitamins a local pet store (not a chain, cant remember the name of it). i just remember the vitamin bottle had a pink label, white dropper top, and it was like a peachy pink color liquid.

as for the concoction. i seem to remember blending up shrimp, vitamin liquid, and some vitamin rich flakes, maybe threw in some dried meal worms too, and then salt water. i kept it kind of runny so it would come out of the syringe. i think i put on rubber gloves and kind of gently held him in my hand underwater. at this point i cant remember if we had some kind of sedative or what (because we had other fish and other issues, i remember some kind of thing we bought at the drug store, feel like humans use it for ear relief maybe??, but that might have been to put another fish out of it's misery humanely)

anyway, i'd say i filled the syringe halfway or full and might have stuck a longer 1-2" clear aquarium air tube on the front and stuck it kind of deep into his mouth and slowly injected it in. i remember it making a big mess and clouding up the tank. and i did small bursts as to allow him to suck in fresh water and breathe. and i did it once a day for 3 -5 days. he knew what was up after his first treatment and was not really into it. but like i said, it worked. he started moving his mouth again and then eating the solid foods.

i don't know if anyone else ever cared enough to save their puffer fish by feeding him by syringe, but he was my little salt water baby and i couldn't sit there and let him die. he was really smart. i used to have a couple of head and hand signals and he'd respond to them, lol

anyway, just hoping this helps someone save a puffer fish in the future. actually... i guess he was technically a balloon fish. lite brown w/ darker spots and yellowish spikes : )
 

raincloud

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oh and, i seem to remember us looking up his life span and thinking that with his eventual age and size that we'd probably need to be donating him to an aquarium, but i do not recall the age. i'm sure there are some estimates flying around online.
 
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