Mysterious Swollen, Red Lip disease

  • #1
So last week I got three Tiger barbs, one Angel fish, one Rainbow shark. I already had an oto and a peppered Cory catfish from a past tank. I decided to restart my 15 gallon. I let the tank cycle for five days before putting the fish in. I added a little aquarium salt for good measure. ADDITIONAL INFO: My pH level is 6.5. I put them in after their bags floated in the water for an hour. I did everything according to procedure. All seem well for a few days until I noticed that one of my tiger barbs had what appeared to be red swollen lips. I thought it had white lips before like the others but then I noticed in a picture I took of the bag when I got them that it had the swollen lips before. It refused to eat. I even tried my freeze-dried blood worms but it wouldn't eat anything. I was worried for him seeing that he was being exiled by the other fish. Just the other night I found him dead. I immediately returned him and brought home another one but it was too late, the disease had spread to my two other barbs. Then that night, I found my catfish dead on the gravel, he was slightly discolored and his lips looked weird. I didn't know what to do. I decided to remove all of the water, disinfect all of my decor and isolate my three tiger barbs. I went to the pet store the next day to take back my rainbow shark (for unrelated reasons), to get new fish, and to ask a worker what to do. He said he had never heard of anything like it but he suspected a bacterial problem. He suggested Melafix. I have giving them the correct dosage for the past couple days and I have seen no change. My tigers seem to be getting progressively worse. What do I do? What type of disease is this? How do I treat? I could really use the help and it would be appreciated. Attached is a photo of the fish when I first got him. He is the one in the top middle. I couldn't find a way to flip it so sorry if it's hard to see.
Tigress Hill
  • #2
Okay several issues here:

I see from your profile that you don't know about the Nitrogen Cycle. Here is a link to learn more Ammonia and Nitrites are VERY toxic to fish, and the cycle eventually changes these into NitrAtes, which are removed by water changes.

Do you have a quarantine tank? This is essential to prevent diseases from harming your current fish, as well as to prevent hitchikers from getting into your established tank.

Tiger barbs, sharks, otos, and cories are all schooling fish, and should all be kept in groups of five or more. Tiger barbs WILL nip at your angelfish's fins, because they are natural nippers and are being kept in insufficient numbers.

IMO, the only fish you currently have that can be kept permanently in that size tanks are the oto and cory.

I have no clue what the red mouth is, but could it be ammonia burns?
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
I do know what the Nitrogen cycle is, I just didn't know if it was the same thing as New Tank Syndrome. I would get the water tested but I don't think the water in my tank caused this, seeing as the fish came home with the red lips. I don't think it's Ammonia, because the other fish wouldn't be catching burns from the one fish. Also, I do have a 5 gallon quarantine tank but I don't use it before I put the fish in the big tank because I don't want to overly stress them out. Another thing, I am getting more barbs when I move into the 30 gallon I am buying next month. I have never heard that otos and cories were schooling fish, seeing as they are bottom feeders, I never considered buying more. My cory died so I got a rubber mouth pleco. The Rainbow shark is not a schooling fish. As a matter of fact, if I bought another Rainbow, one would chase the other one around the tank until the one being chased gave up and the chaser would eat him. Here is a link to the fish I bought, please note the compatibility bar. Also, My tiger barbs have never touched my Angel and are very sweet. They only seem to chase fish in their own species (which only seems for fun). I understand the fish I have will outgrow the tank, but I am planning on buying a larger tank. It's not like they are going to grow five inches overnight.
  • #4
Melafix is not really strong enough to treat infection if your fish are getting worse fast and dying off. Consider getting fish antibiotics if you think it is bacterial. However, if it is not bacterial the antibiotics will not help.

I also had fish die on me after I bought a new fish and then the illness spread to other fish in my tank. I learned from the lesson, and bought a quarantine tank, and I intend to quarantine all new fish from now on.

In my case I was able to save some of my fish with antibiotics. I used a combination of Maracyn and Maracyn II which are two different antibiotics that work against different bacteria, and can be used together. However, my symptoms were very different than yours, and as I said the antibiotics will only work if this is bacterial.

Also if you do not already have an API Freshwater Master Test Kit or other liquid test kit that allows you to measure ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, and pH, get one now, test everything, and post the results here and we can help you troubleshoot further. Depending on the results (for example if you have ammonia or your ph is low etc) that may pinpoint issues to be resolved.

Finally, water changes providing fresh water to fish usually help. I would change the water daily if I were you while your fish are sick. However, if the water conditioner you use is AmquelPlus that may lead to issues with pH if used daily, so then switch to Prime water conditioner for example - Prime is especially good because it detoxifies ammonia and nitrites for 24 hours, and will not mess up your pH even with daily use, so this is a good conditioner to use daily while you have issues in your tank.

All the best!
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
Thank you all for the great advice. I definitely needed the criticism. I finally know about the Nitrogen cycle (time to update the profile!) I am getting a 55 gal. in the next few weeks and will deffinitely be cycling the correct way. I don't know if there's any hope for my barbs, they are getting progressively worse by the day and won't eat. I have continued on Melafix and have done a 30% water change every three days. I got antibiotics like JoannaB suggested but I think it's too late. I might just euthanize them so they don't have to go through starving to death, I can't bear it. Watching them die is pretty heart-breaking. Especially when you're doing all you can but it isn't enough. How I should I approach euthanasia? Should I put them out of their misery or should I keep following through and pray for the best? I really need help deciding.
  • #6
Only you can make the decision whether or not to euthanize. We are not there, and have not been observing. And they are your fish, thus yours to decide on.

However, if it were me, since you already bought the antibiotics, I would use them. The worst case scenario is that at the end of the treatment your fish will still be sick and barely alive, and then you will need to euthanize. They may also die. However, at least one of my five fish that survived the illness in my tank was close to death and in really bad shape, and yet survived, so it is possible for the fish keeper to think a fish will die and yet it does not. Especially someone like me who is inexperienced, I think I am bad at assessing how close to death a fish actually is, how bad it really is, and I don't have the experience to be able to tell that whenever my fish were that bad they always died, so I figure it may not be as hopeless as it appears to me, and as long as I have something else to try to do to save them, I think I would try it. But that would be my choice, and every fish keeper approaches this decision differently.

Only you can tell if it is worth it, and if you cannot stand watching your pets suffering any longer,and think the chances of their survival are slim, euthanasia is an option of course.
  • #7
I understand the fish I have will outgrow the tank, but I am planning on buying a larger tank. It's not like they are going to grow five inches overnight.

In a cramped environment, they won't grow out as they should. You can't see stunted growth with the human eye, but it's happening. The shark requires at least a 75 gallon. I watched my shark put on another 4 inches in length in as many months. It was a growth spurt like I'd never seen before.

Your fish are not chasing each other "for fun". That's how they are exhibiting stress and establishing their hierarchy. I would suggest that you look through the forum here for species information and also compatibility issues. It's crucially important to have done research on each species you plan on putting in any tank. But for that 10 gallon, you pretty much need to rehome everything. It's just not fair to the fish.

Good luck and please do ask all the questions you can think of. That's why we're here!
  • #8
Lynda, Are you sure tiger barbs do not chase eachother for fun? I know danios do. well, ok maybe the danios are also establishing hierarchy and all that, but danios are supposed to chase each other, aren't tiger barbs? However, don't get me wrong I am not disputing that these fish are stressed in too small a tank, I bet they are.

Rehoming the fish may not be an option while they are so sick and dying, unless you get a bigger tank yourself and rehome them into that (making sure to keep the fish safe while cycling the bigger tank). Anyway I would not rehome them to LFS or someone else's tank while you suspect they have a bacterial illness.
  • #9
Personally, I would hold the store where the purchase was made accountable, if they had any idea the size tank all these fish were going into.

As for the tigers, I found similar behavior with my tiger barbs and my red eye tetras. They were always in attack mode and would actually kill off the weakest member of the school, then the next weakest and so on. With my danios, they were just psychotic.

I find it hard to believe anybody in that particular tank is having fun.

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