Long Time Fish Keeper has sick mollies - help

dsteamn

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I am totally new to your board, and I'm hoping you can help me. As a little bit of background, I have kept fish for 30 years - both fresh and saltwater reef systems. I currently have 7 tanks running (totalling 400 gallons), one of which is a 75 livebearer tank - mollies and guppies with one school of cardinals and bottom feeders.

About a month ago, I noticed one of my female mollies started hanging around in the back near the heater. She would come out to eat but then go right back. I went on vacation for two weeks. When I came back, the guy watching my tanks said she was very sick. She had wasted away to almost nothing. Then I noticed 3 or 4 other adult females doing the same thing. Now they have wasted and a few more are staying near the back. They will swim around the tank on occasion and all seem to have good appetites.

All of my paramaters are good - nitrates, nitrites and ammonia @ 0, ph @ 7.5. Water hardness is not a factor. I keep a TBS of salt per 8 or 10 gallons of water. I did a partial water change and raised the temp up a little to 82 degrees. I am treating the tank for internal parasites and bacteria infections because I'm not sure what I'm dealing with here. I'm also gut loading them with anti-parasitic and anti-bacterial foods.

I'm usually the one people come to for information, so I'm kind of at a loss here. If anyone has seen or heard of this before, please let me know what I should do. Only one of my males seem to be affected, and that has just started in the last day or two. It has hit the most adult females first and is now working its way down to the early adult females. None of the other fish are affected.

PLEASE HELP!!!!!!!!
 

Isabella

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dsteamn said:
... I keep a TBS of salt per 8 or 10 gallons of water.
Why are you adding salt to a freshwater tank on a regular basis? Freshwater tanks do not need salt! The only instance when people will add aquarium salt to a freshwater tank is to treat a disease, after which the salt is removed with water changes.

Anyway, how long have you had these particular fish in the 75 gallon tank? Your ammonia = 0, nitrite = 0, and even nitrate = 0, right?
 
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dsteamn

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(Why are you adding salt to a freshwater tank on a regular basis? Freshwater tanks do not need salt! The only instance when people will add aquarium salt to a freshwater tank is to treat a disease, after which the salt is removed with water changes.)

This is not necessarily true.  Fancy guppies prefer to have salt in their water to increase their slime coat.  For livebearing fish, it also protects their gills against ammonia spikes causing them to burn and protects them from bacterial infections in the case of a cut or injury.  It will also help to protect them against parasites like ick.  All livebearers actually fair better in this environment.  Mollies naturally live in brackish water in the wild and often will swim back and forth between brackish and fresh water with no acclimation necessarily.  I have a 75 gallon reef tank and I have kept mollies in there that I changed over to full salt by a two hour drip.  They produce live babies which provide fresh food for the tank.  I have never had a live bearing fish show any signs of stress as a result of salt.  It actually keeps their stress level down.   

Anyway, how long have you had these particular fish in the 75 gallon tank? Your ammonia = 0, nitrite = 0, and even nitrate = 0, right

All of the fish have been in this tank for over two years.  They were all raised from newborns in one of my breeding tanks.  I have not added any new fish or plants for quite some time.  In answer to your question regarding parameters, yes, they are all at zero.

Debbie
 

0morrokh

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The wasting away sounds like it could be pescine tuberculosis (TB). Until we can make a diagnosis for sure, be careful handling that tank, since TB can occasionally be transmitted to humans through skin wounds. It causes a nasty skin infection, although it isn't lethal to humans.

Can you describe exactly how the fish look and act? (It would be very helpful if you could give an account of how the fish look and behave, starting when they first show symptoms until they die.)

I am sorry to hear you are losing your fish. Hopefully we can get this resolved.
 
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dsteamn

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Its very strange.  I talked with two lfs and they are coming to the conclusion that it might be that as well.

When they first start showing symptoms, they are basically just staying in the back corner of the tank - kind of in hiding/resting mode.  They will come out to eat and seem to have normal appetites, just not as active as usual.  All of the usual 'amorous molly behavior' has ceased in the tank.  One by one, they begin wasting away around their bone structure.  Their abdomens continue to look normal, even up until death.  Eventually, the spines will curve down from the head and tail.  By this time, they have wasted away along their spine to where there is no meat for apx 1/8 of an inch down their back from the spine, only skin and bones.  Their breathing is never affected and color, eyes, everything else looks normal.  I see no ulcers, sores, or spots.  Swimming becomes difficult because of the curvature. 

The disease continues to only hit mollies.  I have now lost 6 fully mature females (apx. 18 months old), one mature male (same age), three young adult females (apx. 11 months old), and one adolescent/young male (about 6 months).  The rest of my adult or young adult females are beginning the pattern of hanging around the back corner of the tank.  I have three that have begun to show the signs of wasting.  All of the other breed fish in the tank continue to seem okay.

The lfs told me to treat the tank with Metronidazole, which I began today.  He said the bent spine is because the organs are becomming affected, and believes it to be TG or bacterial rather than parasitic. 

Will keep you updated if there is an interest in the hopes of knowing what to do if it ever hits one of your tanks.
 

0morrokh

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Well, I can't say for certain from your description, but it does sound like it may be TB. Each case of the disease is a bit different which makes it quite hard to diagnose for sure.

For now let's just assume it is TB since it sounds like that is the most likely disease. You should remove all healthy fish from the tank immediately. TB can spread several ways: it can be passed from mother to fry, through eating the body of a dead fish infected with TB, or through eating the poo of a fish infected with it. It however is not passed on simply through being in the tank with an infected fish. So, it is likely that the fish who are not showing symptoms currently have not been exposed to the disease, and if you remove them immediately it is likely they will not become infected. Simply removing the sick fish (and leaving healthy fish in the tank) however is not a sure protection since the tank may be contaminated with bits of dead fish or their poo or whatever. (sorry little gross...) TB can remain dormant for up to 6 months, so the healthy fish need to be placed in quarintine for 6 months before being put with other fish.

That being said, unfortunately there is very little hope for the fish who are already showing symptoms of TB. The meds are worth a try but I can't tell you how effective they will be. I always hate recommending this but if a fish is suffering and looks beyond hope, you may want to consider euthanasia.

I would recommend using rubber gloves when doing tank maintenance since it is possible for the disease to be transmitted to humans. Also, one thing you should know is that although I am not sure this has been confirmed, I have heard from a good source that bleach does not kill TB germs. So, you may want to consider chucking the infected tank. The disease is not overly contagious though, so if you want to risk cleaning and reusing it that's your choice...personally though I would get rid of everything except maybe the hood/light.

Sorry for the long post. Let me know if you have any questions since I have been through this before (I lost all my Guppies and Platys to the disease, probably because I didn't act quickly enough, but I did save the Otos that were in there--in fact I still have them--so don't give up on the fish that are still healthy.)
 

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