Wounded pictus, help!!

  • #1
So I've had four small-ish pictus cats living together since April in a 55g. There have never been aggression issues between them. They all have their own caves, eat well and are happy and healthy.

Last night I noticed the biggest one was acting a little strange, staying hidden in one place or another, not being as active, and sitting a tiny bit sideways (they do that sometimes but it just looked different somehow). I fed their pellets in the normal places and he didn't even come out to eat - well, he swam across the tank and peeked out from behind a cup to see the others eating, but then just swam away - which I think any pictus owner knows is highly abnormal and troublesome. After watching him for awhile I was able to see two small open wounds, one on either side of his body right where the stomach meets the side. They're tiny, 1/8" or less, located directly between his pectoral fins and the next set down on the stomach, and they look clean - not jagged wounds, like they were made with something very sharp.

I have no idea what could have happened to him. He's the biggest fish in the tank and they don't look like fighting wounds anyway. I thought maybe he had caught himself on one of the inside edges of the resin stump he lives in, but the marks are identically placed on opposite sides which seems unlikely. He's also been living in the stump since April or May and I haven't added new decor for them since, so how did it take so long for him to get hurt right... I just don't know. The tank is a bit overstocked (the list in my profile isn't current - I'll take a look at that and correct it) but the fish aren't aggressive at all, the water is clean and I've never seen anything like this in my tanks before. Could the Walmart stump really be to blame and the wound placing extremely coincidental?

Anyhow, the main issue now isn't really what happened but what to do about it... I've only moved two these guys, the first two once each since the Walmart guy sold me them for my 10 gallon originally, and then obviously when I brought each of them home. They're hard to catch, too big now to move in a net or a dip & pour, and they take almost two weeks of swimming up and down in the corner and refusing food to settle into a new space. They freak out whenever I move anything in their tank. So I thought I should quarantine him so I could see him better and possibly/probably treat with something, as I don't want to treat the entire 55 and everyone in it... But my biggest available quarantine space is a 10g, and I literally don't know how I'd catch or move him. One of them got stuck in a net as a baby when I was scooping fish out of a cracked tank so I always used the dip & pour, but he's much bigger now and I'm pretty sure that won't work out well. I can't imagine that level of stress not interfering with the healing process either. I really love these fish, I never planned on having giant fish tanks but I upgraded to avoid rehoming them and I'm now shopping for a 75 for them to grow into. If there was anything, no matter how inconvenient or expensive, that I could think of to help him I'd do it. But I just don't know what to do.

Any help is appreciated.

ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 20, ph 7.2. 75f.

EDIT: I just realized that when I thought my cursor had disappeared, I was actually typing in the subject line. Oops
  • #2
As you said at the end of your post, they will need a 75 gallon tank and soon so that we don't even take the chance of risking stunting. Try to get them into that 75 gallon soon. And please get a 75 gallon long, not a 75 gallon tall, as you probably know but just making sure.

I would definitely quarantine the wounded cat. How many inches is he from head to the tips of his tail and how long and tall are his fins? Depending on how big he is, you may or may not be able to use the 10 gallon to quarantine. If he's too big, get a 30g. I know it seems like a lot for just one fish, but it could come in handy in the future, not only if something unrelated happens, but also if another Pictus gets these wounds or something like that. It should be enough to suffice, considering that you said they are somewhat small still. In the meantime, you can add a little bit of aquarium salt to help with stress and prevent infections.

If the wounds are in the EXACT SAME SPOT on either side, then I don't think it's coincidental, and I also don't think the cave would be responsible. Do you have any tank mates or any other decor that could possibly do something like this?

And lastly, Pictus Cats are happiest when in groups of at least 6 or more, so I'm thinking that after you quarantine the wounded one (and assuming he makes it) and put him back into the tank, you should monitor the tank and make sure everything is healed up nicely and nothing happened to the other fish. During the quarantining and the monitoring, you should cycle a 75 gallon long and then after all the fish are doing well, you can add them to the 75 gallon and possibly add another one or two Pictus cats, two would be better.

Until you can quarantine, just do 25% water changes every other day. We don't want the wounds to be getting infected. You can try feeding your fish altogether, but if the wounded Pictus Cat isn't eating, don't overfeed your other fish in the attempt to get him to eat. You can always try a different food or you can try force-feeding.

Good luck, and keep us updated

  • Thread Starter
  • #3
Lol, they're definitely not stunting. This one is the biggest, he's almost full grown I think. I'm really terrible at estimating but he's probably about 4.5-5" total length. They are spotted pictus not four lines. I mean he'll fit in a 10, but he'll be uncomfortable. I do have a 29 with a reeeeally slow leak that needs revealing, but the leak is slow enough that I could get away with running it for a couple weeks or so if I had to. The problem isn't so much where to put him though as how to get him there, and whether it'll be worth putting him through the move. As I said they don't take well to change, especially a new tank. They break their barbels from running into the corners and swim frantically for like 2 weeks before they calm down. So if I'm going to try to move him I need to be SURE that it's the absolute best and most necessary option. Beyond that I don't know how to move him, I don't have anything big enough to catch him and I'm sure I couldn't grab him by hand without hurting one or both of us.

Also I just realized you said to add salt. Pictus cats along with most if not all other catfish are not salt tolerant. I'm sure that especially being wounded, salt will do him much more harm than good. Salt can kill scaleless fish.

Just to restate, there are no fish in the tank that could have hurt him. Angels, flame tetras, platies, cories, a couple hatchets, danios, and a Raphael. The Raphael does have spines but he's super timid, stays stuffed inside a tiny holy rock except for a few hours a night, and he avoids the pictus cats as much as he can because they move so much faster than him. I suppose anything is technically possible, but I think it's highly unlikely given the behavior of the two fish.

Does anyone else have any out of the box ideas? I think I'm going to dose the tank with melafix for now while I figure out what to ultimately do, it helped my last wounded pictus so maybe I'll get lucky, otherwise it won't hurt.

EDIT: he's actually only just about 4". I put a measuring tape against the tank and waited for him to swim by.
  • #4
I have been told salt is a MAJOR no-no for scaleless fish. However, no one could back that one up with scientific proof, so I went and did a little research. Then a friend on a different forum found some articles for me, and while we couldn't find any AGAINST using it, we found scientific articles supporting it, especially in the case of nitrIte poisoning in catfish. So my guess is the jury is still out on this one.

My suggestion is to try salt in lower the usual doses.

If you don't want to risk anything, just keep treating with Melafix.

It's all up to you whether you quarantine in the 29 gallon or not, but personally, I would.

Here, let me call in a few people who will hopefully have better suggestions than I do.
@TexasDomer @CindiL @ @ @Coradee Anders247 @aliray
  • #5
I'm sorry about your fish. I can't help.I have never kept this type of fish.

I'll move the thread to the disease section. Perhaps it will get more attention there.
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
thank you Lucy, I'm freaking out.
  • #7
Do you have a python water change system? If you do then maybe do daily partial water changes to keep the tank water as clean as you can. The cat fish may behave differently at night than during the day. There could have been a squabble? As far as the resin stump I have found that most of them seem to have sharp areas inside them around the exits. Do you have stones that are rough? He also could have panicked by another fish entering his space and injured himself if they get that easily spooked. Most catfish seem to hunt for food during the night and cruise around looking for treats. Alison
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
Thank you Alison, I'm Allison too!!! I do have a Python and I've been doing PWC almost every day. The wounds seem to be healing and he's swimming about more now. I work nights and come home between 10-11 and I have chronic insomnia among other things that keep me up late, so I get to spend a lot of time watching them do their thing at night. It's the only way I ever see my Raphael!! Tonight I'm going to take his stump out and sand down the edges. He'll be unhappy when I take it out but it'll be better in the long run; I have a feeling you may be right about him getting startled and scraping himself on the way in - the others poke their heads in occasionally and he chases them out, and sometimes there are small squabbles.

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