Need Help w/ 2 sick cichlids! 1 w/ sunken belly & 1 w/ swollen belly

  • #1
I have 2 tanks with each having a symptomatic cichlid.

Ammonia 0, Nitrites 0, Nitrates 10-40. 60-80% WC's every 7-10 days.

I don't have much experience with health issues of my fish, except for Ich when I first got into the hobby. Other than that, luckly our fish have been healthy. No I have 2 fish with issues I am not experienced with.

I have done the usualy research on the internet, but would rather get some knowledge from members here on the forum.

First, our 75g w/ SA cichlids happens to have a Jewel (yes I know its an African fish) with a swollen belly. The fish has been presenting like this now for about 3-4 weeks. The Jewel is about 4.5" long. It appears to have a normal appetite and swims/acts normally.

If I separate this fish and place it into a hospital tank, how should I treat it regarding food and medication?

Also, should I prophylactically treat the tankmates in the 75g as well while the Jewel is in the hospital tank?

How can I figure out if the Jewel is having issues with it's diet or it has some type of GI tract parasite?

Second, our 55g African tank has a full grown Yellow Labidochronis with a sunken belly. It had been in an outdoor quasi-pond setup with a bunch of other African cichlids my friend gave me a few months ago. The other day I transferred the large yellow lab along with 6 other cichlids from the outdoor pond to the 55g. I noticed the large Lab has a sunken belly.

This pic was from about 2 months ago. I didn't notice it then, but it has a sunken belly then as well.

Fish 15.jpg

Now I know the Mbuna were not getting the vegetable based foods they need the past month that they usually get. I just made an order of new fish foods from Ken's Fish, so in a couple of days they will get back on their spirulina and vegetable based flake/pellet/flake foods.

For this cichlid with the sunken belly, after I separate it into it's own hospital tank, how should I treat it regarding food and medication?

Also, should I prophylactically treat its tankmates in the 55g as well while the Yellow Lab is in the hospital tank?

Any advise, experience and suggestions are welcome. If you need more info so you may give a better response, please ask.

A201, MacZ , david1978 , coralbandit , 86 ssinit , Thunder_o_b , DoubleDutch and anyone else who are knowledgeable with cichlids and/or with bloated/sunken belly symptoms.

86 ssinit
  • #2
Ok like you I’ve been lucky and havnt used meds. Are either of the fish showing physical signs of sickness. Hiding,swimming funny... the Mbuna was like that 2 months ago and is still fine so it could be just something from breeding. The jewel could be a tumor. Pic will help. With the jewel you can put it in a qt tank and treat with salt and see what happen.
  • #3
Regarding the Jewel, as long as he is eating, the swollen belly is symetrical, and is otherwise acting normally, probably no worries. Hold off feeding him for four or five days and see how it goes.
Kens sells medicated food. Might try that for the Yellow Lab. The problem might not be parasites, maybe genetics or he might simply be getting old.
No need to blindly medicate the display tanks.
  • #4
Sunken Belly is caused by an internal parasite and is very contagious. If he’s in with other fish, I’d treat the whole tank to be safe. I’ve found that making medicinal food is not only the most effective way to treat treat it, it’s the most cost effective too. Also, it’s pretty simple. Take 3oz of pellet food and add 1/2 tsp aquarium salt and 1/2 tsp fresh grated garlic. Moisten with tank water but don’t saturate it. Then take one packet of API’s General Cure and add that too. Mix well and allow to sit for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, the food isn’t dry but it’s ready to be eaten by your fish. After about 3 hours, it’ll be dry and you can put it away.
• Garlic stimulates appetite and is also a natural parasite killer, AQ salt acts as a laxative, and adding the general cure and administer an antibiotic. Adding gen cure to the water will only treat topical parasites, however, if it’s ingested, it’ll kill both external and internal pests.
Plus, you’d only need 1 packet of general cure per batch; it’ll save you from blowing through the packets. It’s a pricey medicine and this method gets the most bang for your buck.
Side note - This medication would be totally ineffective against a columnaris outbreak.

Swollen Belly could be malawi bloat. The cause is unknown but sometimes over feeding is a factor. To treat, remove any carbon from the filter and add epson salt to the water. Remove any scaleless fish, live plants, and Plecos before adding salt. They’re way more sensitive to salt than cichlids are and it will kill them. A safe amount of salt is 1 Tbsp per 5 gallons of water. However, depending on how sever the case is, you can increase the amount of salt. He may also simply be constipated. Is he on a protein rich diet? That’s a common cause for poop problems. You can also give the medicated food to this fish; because it contains aquarium salt, it’s a laxative and will make him go hence the swelling goes away. And if he’s not eating due to constipation, the garlic smell will entice him more than regular food.
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  • #5
I haven't been able to put either of the two in their own tanks because I just got off working a 27 day stretch and a lot of it was out of town. Luckily my schedule is back to normal now and I can take care of that tomorrow.

I wasn't able to get a pic of the Jewel, but I can post one tomorrow when I am off shift. I think the Jewel is a female, and will try to sex it when I pull it from the tank.

The yellow lab indeed looks old. Not sure how long my friend had it for.

Thank you for all of the input.

I will report back when I can get some decent pics tomorrow.
  • #6
I can only say something about the Yellow Lab. It doesn't have to be a parasite, Yellow Labs generally have health issues a lot.
In case a parasite should be confirmed: Leave it in its tank and dose the whole crew. They might have it all, but it only shows when stressed to a certain level. So: Meds and then a healthy diet, maybe some extra vitamines.

But I won't confirm anything before I've seen the fish on a newer picture.

Oh, and Yellow Labs are count as Mbuna, but are actually omnivore, so they can work with some but not with an all-meat diet.
In case it's old a sunken belly wouldn't be that common. I had one living 7 years in one of my tanks and at least 3 more in somebody elses tank. Never showed that.
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  • #7
Pics of the Jewel.....


And a random pic of a Vieja....

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  • #8
I have been feeding the African and SA tanks with medicated sticks from Ken's Fish with Metronidazole.

Ken's Premium Metronidazole & Garlic Sticks

I separated the Jewel so it's now in it's own 20g QT on our back covered deck.

I did the epson salt treatment that NaturalGothic suggested, but now realized I was doing 1tsp/5 gal and not the 1tbs.

Going to do a large WC and add the 1tbs/5g epson salt to the replaced volume of water.

After doing more research, could the bloated Jewel have dropsy?

Also, should I try a round if treatment of Levamisole?

I can get it in powdered form locally at Tractor Supply Co.

The bloat in the Jewel has not reduced yet.
  • #9
You know dropsy is the symptom it already has, right?
I wouldn't try the Levamisole, too easy to dose wrong.

How's the Yellow Lab?
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  • #10
I was never well versed in dropsy. I've always heard about it, but really didnt know much about it until I started to read into it recently.

Oddly, the jewel has had this bloat for at least a month or more.

Yellow lab looks the same, not worse but not better.

Some of the other Mbuna have a slightly sunken belly that were in the temporary pond along with that yellow lab, but not near as noticeable. They are being fed the medicated Ken's Fish food as well.

I will try to get a shot of the yellow lab later tonite
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  • #11
Here is pic of the Yellow Lab with its sunken belly into this morning.


It acts normally, eating and swimming around.

As for the Jewel that I put in QT, it died last night.

I believe it was Dropsy, due to the classic symptom I've read about.

Last 2 days the Jewel has been lethargic and not eating.

When I took the Jewel out of the QT after it died, it had exhibited pine coning as well.

The QT was a 20g with a large cycled sponge filter and was getting a 75% WC every 3 days.

The 75g the Jewel came out of has no other fish exhibiting any strange symptoms.
  • #12
Too bad about that jewel. Meh.. :/

Yeah, that Yellow Lab definitely has inner parasites. Either Flagella or Worms. I'd first treat for the former, then for the latter. But I can tell you, Labs sometimes don't come back from that.

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