Published on Wednesday, 28 May 2014 05:50

Ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis) is by far the most common aquarium disease out there. Ich is a protozoan parasite. Its full scientifically known name is Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. Ich is a parasite that attaches its self to the fish and looks like a grain of salt in its final stage. The first sign of infection often is clamped fins and abnormal swimming habits. Though this is a sign for many different diseases. The second sign is often flashing or scraping. This is where the fish looks like its trying to scratch its self against décor. The ich parasite is irritating the fish skin. The final stage of infection is the grains of salt popping up all over the body.

Ich is a single cell parasite that has a three stage life cycles. You normally know you have ich in the Trophont stage which is the adult stage of the parasites life. This is the stage that it is visible as white spots on your fish. Once the organism finishes this stage of their life they drop off of the fish. They become encysted in a free living dormant stage. This stage of the ichs life is called the Tomont stage. The ich will stay in the dormant encysted state anywhere from several hours to several days depending on the water temperature. The warmer the water the quicker it will go through the life cycle. It will divide into larvae called Theronts. These new organisms do not have long to find a new host before they die. This is where the treatment works be it salt or meds.

There are two main treatments medications which you can buy or there is the salt and heat method. The salt and heat method typically takes longer but normally is less stressful. There are also side effects for using medications as well.  If you use salt which I think is the best you need to use NaCI salt. You can typically find this at lowes or home depot. A $5-$7 bag will last you a life time. The common recommended dose for treating ich is 2 tsp per gallon of water but you can go up to 3tsp. You don’t want to put the salt directly into the water. Take a container with some tank water and dissolve the salt there. Also so you don’t shock the fish you want to add about 25% of the salt every few hours. What I do is mix up all the salt at once and only pour 20%-25% of the water in the tank at a time. The good thing about this is you only need to add it once until you do a water change. To keep things simple when I do a water change I will make sure to do a 25% or 50% water change on the tank. This allows me to easily add the salt back into the tank. For example I have a 10 gallon tank. I originally added 20 tsp of salt. I do a 50% water change. I add back 10 tsp of salt. Ich will most likely look like its getting worse before it gets better. A good idea is to start with 2tsp a gallon. If it doesn’t get better in 6-7 days I would add an additional 1tps per gallon. If you add enough salt you can get rid of ich. The second part is heat. By increasing the temperature in the tank you can speed up the life cycle of the ich.  If you get it warm enough you can even kill off the ich with heat alone. Typically at 84 degrees ich will die off but there are some strains that can take heat up to the 90s. this is why a heat plus salt is the best idea.  The only problem with this is it can stress the fish out if they can’t handle the warmer temps. Also the warmer the water the less oxygen is in the water so adding an air stone is often helpful to keep up surface agitation. I suggest around 82 degrees for most cases. Remember the life cycle of the ich. Once it looks gone keep the treatment up for 7 days this should wipe it completely out.

Commercial treatments often contain formalin, malachite green, methylene blue, chelated copper, copper sulfate, potassium permanganate and quinine. The copper treatments often kill any inverts in the tank. It also leeches into the silicone and slowly releases. This often makes a tank uninhabitable for inverts. The treatments with Malachite Green will often stain the silicone. These medications are strong and should not be used with scaleless fish such as Puffers and Loaches. If you are using meds make sure to remove the active carbon from the tank. The treatment differs from med to med so make sure to read the directions if you go with one of them.