Remedies for Constipation

Discussion in 'Freshwater Fish Disease' started by kinezumi89, Mar 10, 2012.

  1. kinezumi89

    kinezumi89Fishlore VIPMember

    I have a female Bristlenose pleco that I've had for a few months. A week ago, I moved her from a (much too small) 10 gallon tank to her new home, a 55 gallon tank. When I fished her out of the 10g, she had one of her characteristic fecal strings dangling behind her. However, since moving her into the tank, she hasn't had any.

    On one hand, I've read some sources that have said that fecal strings are a sign of constipation. However, this seems backwards to me; if she was pooping a lot, it sure wouldn't seem like an indication of constipation. Once or twice, when she suddenly swam away, I have seen a little chunk or two fall out and sink to the bottom, but definitely nothing near the volume when she was in the previous tank.

    As remedies, I have tried peas twice, she nibbled on them, but didn't really eat any; last night I put in zucchini and cucumber, she definitely ate some, but this morning she looks even more swollen, and more scales are sticking out on her sides. I do not believe it is dropsy, as it is nowhere near as extreme as all the pictures I have seen. I included a picture, but she likes to hide in the poorly-lit areas, so it's hard to see. Also, the pictures are from yesterday, before she ate the zucchini/cucumber, so she's a bit more round now. The fourth picture, however, is from today, but it isn't as good of an angle. (The one with her on top of the rock, facing to the left.)

    I have a few questions regarding treatments I've read about:

    1. Epsom salt: I've read that you can temporarily treat with 1-3 teaspoons per 5 gallons, however I've also read about people doing "baths" rather than treating the entire tank. Currently, the 55 gallon is populated only by the pleco and a (very happy) male betta. Could I treat the tank? It would be very difficult to catch her, as there are good hiding spots, and she was hard to catch even in the 10 gallon. Plus, she seems much more skittish since moving her to the larger tank, and I'm afraid it's because I stressed her when catching her the first time (though I moved very slowly, didn't pinch her against the glass, and moved her in a cup filled with water, so she was never in contact with air). If I am able to treat the entire tank (without endangering the betta) should I put the salt in the filter housing, so it dissolves as water passes over it and is distributed evenly throughout the tank? Or would that possibly hurt the bacterial colonies living in the filter?

    2. Oil and Garlic: I've read that you can soak food (in her case, an algae wafer) in oil (castor oil, specifically) and that the oil should help the food pass. Does anyone have any experience with this? If so, does it have to be castor oil specifically? Also. I've read about food soaked in garlic water (liquid that minced garlic is stored in). If I have garlic-infused olive oil, would that work, or is olive oil not good for fish? (I also have vegetable oil, if that is an adequate replacement).

    3. Spirulina Algae: I've read that (I seem to start a lot of sentences this way) spirulina algae can be good for constipation. The algae wafers have spirulina algae in them, which would make me happy, BUT the nutritional analysis on the back says "no less than 40% protein." I've also read that plecos aren't supposed to get more then 10% protein unless you're trying to get them to breed, and even then, no more than 20%. I've been drastically withholding the wafers since she's been constipated - she got one Sunday night, 1/2 Monday morning, peas on Tuesday and Wednesday, 1/2 on Thursday, and veggies on Friday night. Should I buy different algae wafers that have less protein and more fiber (these have max 5% fiber)? Should I continue withholding the wafers, and feed only peas, cucumber, and zucchini?

    She's been very active, as always; usually scooting around the tank and rarely pausing to rest (making her very difficult to photograph). However, she still has no fecal strings. We introduced a piece of Mopani driftwood this morning; she's sat on it a few times, but definitely isn't living on it as I kind of expected she would. I've included a picture of that as well. Does anyone have any methods listed above that they prefer, or a different method I haven't mentioned?

    I am frequently checking to see if she's in a good location for a better picture; I will upload any as soon as I can take them.

    Thanks for any information you may have! :)

    Edit: I have been assuming all along that it was constipation (due mostly to the lack of poop and swollen abdomen) but she really doesn't have any of the other symptoms. She doesn't uncharacteristically sit at the bottom of the tank (still constantly swimming around like normal), and she definitely still has an appetite. If you think it may be something other than constipation, please let me know! :)
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 11, 2012
  2. Butterfly

    ButterflyModeratorModerator Member

    Welcome to fishLore!
    How old is she? Is she old enough to be full of eggs?
    In the larger tank you will be less likely to see strings laying around as you did in the smaller tank.
    She needs veggies and very little protein. Protein will constipate her.
    She's very pretty :)

    I personally wouldn't use the Epsom salts(actually not any kind of salt but Magnesium sulfate)

    Garlic is good for fish. It gives their immune systems a boost and kills certain kinds of parasites. Just soak a veggie/algae wager in garlic juice. I buy minced garlic in the produce section at the grocery store. Make sure it's in water not oil.

    My plecos get raw vegetables mostly and a piece of fruit occasionally.

    Last edited: Mar 11, 2012

    OUTINFRONTValued MemberMember

    I use peas just remove the outer shells.Edit I see you use them sounds like you got it covered good luck.
  4. Aquarist

    AquaristFishlore LegendMember

    Good morning,

    Daphnia can act as a laxative for fish too.

    Best wishes for your fish!

  5. OP

    kinezumi89Fishlore VIPMember

    Carol: Thank you! She says thank you, too :) I am not sure how old she is. We got her end of December/early January. The best I can measure through the tank, she is a little less than two inches. Is it possible for plecos to make eggs without being in the presence of a male for two months or so? That wouldn't explain the lack of poop that I've seen, but the current is swifter in this tank, so maybe the strings don't stay attached. Also, it would explain how she still has a good appetite, and is still very active...hmmm.

    Ken: I've heard about Daphnia. How is it usually sold? Does it float on the surface? My betta is a bit of a pig, and I'd be worried about the pleco actually getting some (though I know that it's okay if the betta eats it, as well).

    I put some spinach in last night (I heard that's supposed to help, too), but not very much of it is missing this morning. On one hand, if it is constipation, I don't want to feed her too much; on the other hand, if it's just eggs, I don't want to be unnecessarily starving her! I was going to try the peas again tonight, but she did eat a lot of zucchini/cucumber the other day, and if it's constipation, I don't want to overfeed her.

    Then again, when I used to work at an animal hospital, my cat was anesthetized for an ear exam, and I had read that the type of anesthesia we use can cause constipation in cats. I told my vet that I had reduced my cat's feeding, and he laughed and said that if he was stopped up, if anything you should feed a little extra to help push it out. He is an incredibly knowledgeable man and I've always trusted his veterinary advice. Although, cat digestive systems are a little different than a fish's...

    I've included a few pictures I was able to get last night. I hope they offer some insight! :)

    Attached Files:

  6. OP

    kinezumi89Fishlore VIPMember

    She finally sat still enough for me to take a pretty good picture. You can see on the sides of her tail how the scales are sticking up a little bit. Maybe one day she'll let me get a dorsal view. (She's very skittish these days.) On her back, you can see little lighter squares (sort of) where the scales are sticking up. You can see it a little bit in one of the first pictures I included up there (the dark one, where she's hanging vertically on the back wall of the tank).

    Also, while I was taking pictures, a little piece of bright green poop came out. Last night she had spinach, and the night before was zucchini/cucumber, so all she's had the past few days has been fresh vegetables/fruits (since cucumber is technically a fruit). At least she's pooping a little! I'm not sure if this green bit is a good thing or bad thing, but maybe someone else knows. :)

    Attached Files:

  7. Akari_32

    Akari_32Fishlore LegendMember

    She's looking better :) Fish poop the color of the food they eat (weird, right??).

    She just needed some fiber to get her going :p
  8. OP

    kinezumi89Fishlore VIPMember

    Unfortunately I'm not so sure...(not that I'm trying to question your expertise, of course). The pineconing looks a little worse today, it goes down to her tail now, too. (You can see it a little in the last picture I uploaded.

    I tried to get a few more, but she never sits close enough to the front that I can get a clear view.

    I'm not jumping to the conclusion yet that it's dropsy, but if it ends up being so, is it contagious? Will I have to remove either her or the betta? Would I have to sanitize the tank somehow?

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