White fuzzy spots on my Severum

  • #1
A brief tank history. Its 135g I purchased on CL a month ago and the fish and ornaments were included. At the time the only filtration was UG. Although it came with a Rena XP3 there was no media in it. In setting up the tank the gravel was old and in poor shape and there was hairy algae throughout and also on a few of the rocks. I got new gravel and left a few of the rocks and driftwood out that were completely covered in algae. I set the tank up without the UG filters instead going with new media in the XP3 and an Eheim 2217. Obviously there has been some cycling of the tank due to the changes but the fish have been much livelier than before I bought it. I have been getting my water checked at the LFS twice a week and at the start added something to help get the bacteria going in the tank.

One of the two full grown Severums had white fuzzy spots prior to purchase but they went away rapidly after I got the tank setup. Now a month later they came back on Friday and are much worse today. They started on his fins only but now its on/near his gills and on the top of his head. It appears to be fuzzy and different sizes. None of the other fish have any signs of it. He is not eating and stays away from the other Severum where prior they were always together. What could it be?

My water parameters (my first testing with an API Master test kit):
PH: 7
Ammonia: 0.15ppm
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: I tried twice with the same result. The water was fruit punch red which would mean about 80-160ppm but I must be wrong. I had it checked thursday at the LFS and they said the parameters all looked fairly good.
Temp: 79 (300w heater)
30% Water change done Friday, prior was 3 weeks ago (I was following the advice of the LFS to wait while the tank was established). I used Prime on Friday's change.


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  • #2
First I'd like to say welcome to fishlore .... Now your Ammonia is to high it should read 0.. The red color I have no idea about but I'm pretty sure it's high also.. With Ammonia of any kind in the tank it is not cycled and wil stress the fish and if it's to bad it can bring on illness like ich .. I would raise the temp on the tank over a couple days to about 84 and do water changes until the ammonia is at 0. You said you used bacteria going, what did you use.. Tetra safe start is the only one that is known to work well... Maybe someone else can help. Good luck with your problem and keep us posted
  • #3
Congratulations on the new tank. Sounds like you have been very busy.

Are you sure about the ammonia level? API kits do not test over 8 PPM. Did you mean 1.5 PPM? I agree that your nitrates are 80+.

In a cycled tank, you should have no ammonia or nitrite, and 20PPM or less nitrate.

I disagree with the advice given by the LFS. Water change are needed to save your fish. I recommend a 75% water change today, followed by 30% daily changes until completely cycled.

As your tank has fish weakened by the high waste levels, an ich outbreak has begun...and this is where things can unravel quickly. I suggest raising the temp slowly to 86F and add freshly minced garlic to their diet. If you follow the link about curing ich naturally in my signature, it will help explain what you are facing.
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  • #4
Oops I forgot a decimal point with my ammonia reading, it should be .15! I went to the LFS to get their advice and check the water again against my readings. They said ammonia was just above zero, no nitrite and nitrate was low but I didn't get their reading.

In showing them pictures they weren't convinced it was ich and thought it looks more bacterial. I did buy maracyn from them. Not that I know anything but I've read that ich looks like salt, this is nothing like salt it's bigger and fluffy/fuzzy and none of the other fish have it. Not sure if that info helps? I really appreciate the quick feedback, I never expected it! I am definitely open to suggestions I know my LFS is not the end all which is why I posted here. They don't seem to be advocates of frequent water changes, more along the lines of once a month. That doesn't seem to jive with what I read here and I see the benefits of changing more often.

I have a 20 gallon tank fully cycled for 2 years that I can move him too for treatment assuming it's not ich.

I did buy a bunch of food from kensfish including garlic guard. Would it work soaking the food in that or would the minced garlic be better right now?
  • #5
White fluff definitely is not ich. Does it look like a white cottony growth? It could be columnaris. Can you post the pictures so we could see them? If bacterial, lower temperatures are best as it slows down the spread.

Is only this one fish sick? Can you move him into a QT tank?

Maracyn, if used, will kill the bacterial colony required for the cycle. Your best bet would be to transfer the sick fish and treat in a smaller tank. It would also cost much less to treat this way.

Having so little ammonia is much better, but still not fully cycled.

I am, however, still concerned about the nitrate level. Are you using the API kit to test with? If so, you need to wait 24 hours after dosing Prime to have a good result. Then, I would retest the nitrate. A healthy tank will have 20PPM nitrate or less.

If you are still getting anything above 20 PPM, you'll need to do a large water change. If your test result is still 80PPM, you'd need a 75% change to drop it down to 20PM. If 40PPM, then and 50% change is in order. This should also be followed by weekly water changes to maintain healthy levels.

Good luck treating your sick fish.
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  • #6
It is very cottony and seems to look like pic of columnaris. I'll post a pic later this evening. It's just the one fish so I took out the remaining inhabitants of my 2 year established 20 gallon and put them in the 135 and now have the Severum in the converted QT tank. That was my eventual plan for the small tank anyway. He's not eating yet

It is the API Kit, and that was my first time testing which was just over 24 hours after I did the water change with prime. At the LFS they checked this morning and said ammonia is almost zero, nitrite zero and nitrate looked ok but I didn't get the exact reading. They seemed to think the water was really good for it being established a month ago. We've been going on an off to them for 15 years so kinda hard to say I bought the test kit elsewhere but it was a lot cheaper from kensfish. I probably did something wrong although I read the instructions several times for nitrate to make sure I got it right, including shaking the bottle but it turned super red right away which is a high reading. They use the apI kit and it wasn't the same at all. I'll try again later tonight and see what happens. I just bought an 8 pack of maracyn which will be 4 days worth but I wonder if I should get more?
  • #7
When you repeat the nitrate test tonight, actually beat the #2 bottle against a counter or table for at least a minute. This second bottle has crystals that can be difficult to get back into suspension.

I've seen many times where a LFS will tell someone their water is good, when it really isn't. But, without an exact number, that is hard to tell. Do you recall the color of the test tube on the nitrate test? Was it more yellow, gold or light orange? Any shades of red are too high IME.

Before starting the meds, I'd recommend removing some of the media and temporarily placing it into the 135 filter. Remove any live plants from the 20G as well. Then, follow directions for treatment. Oh, and don't forget to remove the activated carbon, unless it is old and needing replacement. Carbon will remove the med and not allow the med to work.

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  • #8
Ok so I didn't end up checking last night. I did a 50% water change and used stresscoat+ so I could check the water right away.
I checked the nitrate 20mins after the change and its the same results. I banged the heck out of bottle 2 to be sure it was mixed. My understanding is that would give readings too low if not mixed properly. I also checked the water in the 20 gallon just after removing the other fish and same result there to 80ppm. My opinion thus far is that the API nitrate test has some real issues not the least of which is poor color gradients to determine the reading. I did a google search and found a post on another websites forum (saltwater) about the reading being higher the more you shake the tube after adding both solutions. Per the instructions I lightly shook the tube after adding the first solution and then vigorously shook it for 1 minute after adding the second. After not even 30 seconds the water was bright red in every single test.

Now it does appear to be starting on the other Severum so I moved him to the QT tank as well (I did remove the carbon but not the bio rocks until late last night). Should I do any water changes in the QT tank and if so how frequently?
  • #9
Daily water changes would be best.
  • #10
What are the last 4 digits in the Lot Number on each bottle? They represent the month and year of manufacturer. And are good for 3 years.

If your kit is good, then I would begin large daily water changes and small area gravel vacs to remove uneaten foods. Further I would cut back on foods, even so far as every other day.

If this is something like columnaris, the meds and very low temp will be your best plan of attack. Be prepared for a bumpy ride. Columnaris will quickly wipe out a tank. It did mine last spring.
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  • #11
last four are 05/11 bottle 1 and 07/11 bottle 2 so they are good.

So basically daily water changes for both tanks? How much on each? I would assume it's best to change the water then medicate for the QT tank? I have both tanks at 79 degrees, is that good?

I'll cut back on foods too. I'm still learning what they need but I try to make sure it's all eaten within 2-3 minutes. I'll do a bit less now as suggested. I'll try to get another pic my camera just doesn't want to focus through the tank.

Lastly I guess I should get more Maracyn since I only have 4 days worth or is there something better?
  • #12
Have you tested your tap water for nitrAtes?

Here's my story and maybe it will help you.....When my largest tank had a ICH breakout due to a routine weekly water change several months ago, most likely cause was temperature change, I raised the temperature to 86 after noticing the problem. About 5-days later I noticed my Pictus Cats were hanging near the surface with heads up. I didn't notice at the time that they were covered in white stringy material due to I was only using moonlight for lighting so didn't get a good look at them at first until I decided to flip the actual light on and they were not only infected with ICH but Columnaris as well. I ended up loosing them very quickly and 12 hours before that I lost 3 juvI Silver Dollars that did not show signs of Columnaris at least not visible. Could of been infected gills. It spreads quickly in warmer water believe me. 75 is the ideal temp to slow it down so the medication can have time to work. Lower temp down to 75 slowly. I treated with API Erythromycin (which is Maracyn) and Maracyn-Two with addition of Copper Sulfate for ICH in my 20 gallon QT for 4 other fish that were going down hill. Best to remove infected fish. I then lowered the temp down to 75 and treated with Copper Sulfate in main tank for the rest of the fish due to ICH. I didn't loose anymore fish but the QT fish did not eat for over a week, infected with other besides ICH and Columnaris but recovered. It was horrible. After the course of treatment I just did daily partial water changes with Amqual Plus and Fish Protector for several days after. Still dosed Copper Sulfate carefully after as ICH was still on fins of two of the fish. Each day they got better but it took a lot of TLC/water changes to heal them from the damages. I fed them twice a day when they started to eat again. I fed them NLS TheraA soaked in VitaChem and added directly to tank after each water change. One of my Silver Dollars left pectoral fin was so badly damaged that it never grew back the whole fin, currently he still has a ray hanging down and the rest of his fin just consists of maybe 2 rays with a little bit of fin. Sorry for the novel. lol

Here's my thread:

If it is Columnaris I highly recommend treating with medication. Only the QT.

As for the main tank just do daily water changes of 30% with Prime with substrate vac every few days or so to remove waste and uneaten food. It's important to keep substrate fairly clean when infections are present in the aquarium via if its ICH or other infections. Feed them well but not overfeed. But to kick other fish getting infected the tank needs to be cycled. Boosting their immune system with freshly minced garlic with a little water to soak their foods in.

I do believe daily water changes are best but it's knowing what exactly they are infected with. Is it bacterial or just a "true fungal" infection? There could be secondary infections that follow.

I believe also that Sevs can be sensitive to water quality. They need a cycled tank and clean water. Well, this goes for all fish but some seem more sensitive then others.

Your Sevs are very pretty, I hope things don't go down hill but up.

Note: I have restocked from my loss.
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  • #13
I managed to get these shots of the sick Severum.
Looking at the other one who is not in the qt tank it seems it might be fin rot? I couldn't get a good pic he was hiding but the ends of his fins seem to be wispy and eroding if that's the right word. No fuzzy spots. I just checked the qt tank temp and its about 78 is that ok or should I bump it a degree? I'll go back to using prime I just used stresscoat so I could check the water after a change. I will check the nitrates in my tap water and report back.


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  • #14
Looking at the pics of the sicker one you provided....it looks like finrot with a secondary infection known as "cotton-wool disease" (Columnaris). and/or "true fungus"-white cotton-like material found on fins and body. I believe the cotton-wool disease is found at the tips of the fins as the fin gets eaten away. It can be mind boggling to find out what exactly the infection is.

The one in the main tank with fins starting to disintegrate can get the secondary infection. Way to prevent that is clean clean water and get it cycled.
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  • #15
I checked my tap water and it has 0 nitrates. I guess that means both tanks have really high nitrates. I changed out 30% in the qt tank last night and will check all parameters on both this evening before I do anoher change.
Would aquarium salt help as well in the qt tank?
  • #16
Salt should not be used with your stocking. Fresh water fish simply need fresh water. As your nitrates are high, I suggest doing even larger changes, 50-75%.

As for the QT tank, I would do a 75% water change. And as soon as it has been filled, immediately do another 75% change. And see if that doesn't get the nitrates to drop some.
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  • #17
I was thinking of the salt just for the qt tank but I'll stay away if that's not a good idea. I have prime and stresscoat+, if I need to keep an eye on water parameters should I just use the stresscoat so I can check right after the water change? Maybe I could add some prime after testing the water?

I'm taking everyone's advice with being careful about feeding and using garlic. It's kinda hard to guage how much food is needed. I'm not used to such a large tank with larger fish. I did order some vita-chem and will use that in the future too.

Both Severums are in the QT tank and both won't eat now. I vacuumed up the uneaten food when I did the change last night.

Going back to my first post for a second I don't know the exact name of the bacteria additive I got from the LFS (I threw out the bottle and they didn't have it in stock last time I went) but the brand was TLC.

Thanks for all of the advice everyone! I really appreciate the time taken to help me! I should have joined before I picked up my tank and some or all of this might have been avoided. I know I would have taken a different approach to establishing the tank compared to the advice from the LFS.

I am fortunate with my location and setup which makes everything fairly easy. The previous owners of my house had an 8 foot wide saltwater tank they were setting up but hadn't finished so they took it and closed the wall up (I wasn't willing to pay the 5K they were asking for everything). So I have 8 outlets, 2 of which have wall plate timers I use for my lights. I have RO that goes to my kitchen but I can use downstairs too, and a slop sink in the basement that I hook the python to for water changes.

  • #18
Sounds like you have a very nice setup. Don't feel bad about following LFS advice. Some stores are better than others and some are only interested in selling products. We have all been in your shoes at one point. You will get there. It is just going to take a bit longer.

If I remember correctly, Prime states you can do an immediate test, but read the bottle first. Otherwise, you should wait 24 hours. I prefer to not mix conditioners. Plus Prime can detox the nitrogen waste, where StressCoat does not.
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  • #19
I did a 50% change on my 135 and 2 consecutive 50% changes on the qt tank ( my wife didn't want to kill the Angelfish eggs we have in there). The 135 water looks super clear right now!

I hate to say it but one of the Iridescent sharks looks like it might have the start of columnarus. I'm hoping it isn't but it looks like cotton strands He's 10" long and active so I don't know how I could treat him.
  • #20
I am SO sorry you are having to go through this.

Yup, if it looks like a stringy white material hanging off of body/fins, then it's Columnaris. :-\ It has to be treated with antibiotics.

A setup for a hospital tank can be a large tupperware or some sort of plastic bin can be used that has never seen soap etc. It doesn't have to be a tank. All you would need is a cheap filter, heater and airstone.
  • #21
I'd use a large sponge filter as it will take care of oxygenating the water as well as filtration.
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  • #22
Got some good news today. The spots are reducing! I started with Marycin two with the marycin last night. He definitely has fin rot setting in now. The other severums fin rot is almost completely gone and no signs of columnaris! I don't see anything on the ID shark in fact the next day I didn't see anything. Maybe it was something from a silk plant?

I tested the 135g tank last night: Ph 7.2 ammonia 0 nitrite 0 nitrate about 20 maybe a tad higher! I skipped a day feeding and fed light last night. The qt tank is a different story. Ph 7 ammonia about 1ppm nitrite 0 nitrate 40. I did a 50% change with prime based on those results. Will check again tonight. Anything else I should do on that tank? Should I change the water more often?
  • #23
That is great news!
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  • #24
I know it's been awhile since I last posted. They still aren't healthy yet. That being said they were on deaths door almost floating sideways. They hadn't eaten in 2 weeks and I thought for sure they were going to die. I stayed on top of the water changes and they day I was thinking I had to do something they looked much better! The columnaris seemed to be gone but now there's some spots on the pectoral fins that started last week. They don't seem to be getting worse as of yet. I'm still changing water every 1-2 days about 65% with prime. I really hope I can get them well! This has been a really long process and I'm hoping to get a break from all these water changes
  • #25

I am sorry you are still dealing with them being sick but it sounds like they are doing better besides the the spots. It's not ICH is it?
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  • #26
I can't say I'm 100% sure it's not ich but it's only on the fins and still seems on the fuzzy side but it's smaller. I'll just have to keep watching them closely and changing the water and go from there I suppose. The tank seems empty without them right now and I'm sure they hate being so confined so I'm hoping it's not much longer. At least the rest of the fish have been fine. I feel like I dodged a bullet there!

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