Ichthyopthirius Multifillis is also known as Ich or White Spot
You can compare this parasite with lice on your dog. Even the name translates literally to ‘fish louse with many children’. It was named this because it produces hundreds of little Itch’s and therefore is aptly named. Even though it is only a skin infection, it can and does become fatal to fish, any fish that is stressed or ill through poor tank conditions, poor diet or both.
The symptoms to look out for are:
- The fish trying to dislodge the parasite by scratching against hard objects
- Becomes lethargic and sluggish
- Develops bloody streaks or redness (this is the advanced stage)
- Rapid gill movement (this is an universal sign of illness)
When this is only in small occurrences they can go unnoticed at the beginning stages, but it is very easy to spot severe infestations. Eventually Ich will without a doubt become obvious.
The skin of the fish will swell and produce white cysts (seen as small spots) as the Ich burrows in to feed on the fish’s body blood and dead skin cells. The parasite feasts for several days before letting go of the fish and dropping to the bottom of the tank.
For protection, Ich forms a membrane around itself before dividing into hundreds of baby parasites known as Tomites. This whole process is then repeated by each of the Tomites and will search out more fish to become their host and meal. The only time it is possible to eradicate these parasites is during the time it is free swimming in the water looking for a host on which to feed.
Medication must be used quickly as this stage only lasts about 3 days. Once the new homes have been found, the parasite is protected from the medication.
The temperature of the water should be raised as this speeds up the treatment. Keep the medication going for between 10 to 14 days, this should be long enough to eradicate all the parasites. Even though nothing can kill the parasite whilst it feeds on the fish, it will help if you use Ich treatments during the searching time such as:
- Malachite Green
- Methylene Blue
- Mepracrine Hydrochloride
- Quinine Hydrochloride
All of which can be obtained from the pet stores. Follow the instruction given in the packet, but if you are treating scale-less Tetras or Catfish, cut the treatment down to half. Whilst the treatment is going on discontinue the carbon filtration as the medication is removed from the water during filtration.
Always stock up your aquarium slowly and never over-feed the fish. Remove all uneaten food from the water after 5 minutes. Under normal circumstances your tank only has to be tested for ammonia twice monthly. If your filter stops working test for ammonia within 24 hours to make sure that the good bacteria that eliminates the wastes are still unaffected. Whenever one of your fish seems to be ill you must test immediately for ammonia, simply to rule out ammonia poisoning. Your tank must be cleaned and changed at least once a week or if the water becomes cloudy.
Maintaining a good diet and looking after the water will generally keep your fish healthy and stop them from becoming stressed, reducing their susceptibility to infections being stressed and therefore reduce its susceptibility to infection.