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Old 01-17-2013, 10:29 AM   #301 
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Identification (& Causes)

• A white spot/wound in the body maybe 3/16 inch, that within a week the white area increases to a larger strip in size.

• A white to grey cottony growth (that appears like a fungus) but it appears to be eating away the fish’ skin, as well appears the outside skin is eaten away down to the 'meat'.

• Necrosis (premature death of cells and living tissue) of the fins which is accompanied by white, cotton-like accumulations of bacteria and detritus. Fin Rot is a common secondary problem of Columnaris (see the picture in the treatment section)
(The picture to the left shows necrosis of the fins, please click the picture to enlarge)

• Ulcerations on the skin that slowly or sometimes quickly result in major tissue (epidermis) loss.

• Sometimes the infection where Columnaris is present is a blackish to fleshy in color.

• A lesion that appears like a white/grey “Saddleback” near the dorsal fin (which leads to the other common name for this disease: “Saddleback Disease”.
As well the skin lesions will often appear white/gray colored with an edging of red, which will often change to ulcers caused by the bacteria decaying the underlying tissue.
(The picture above/left shows white/gray fungus "like" skin lesions, please click the picture to enlarge)

• In gills, Columnaris can cause disintegration of the gill filaments. As the disease progresses the gills can change from their natural color to a light or dark brown. Since it is difficult to absorb enough oxygen from the water using damaged gills, the fish will start breathing rapidly and the fish might also swim up to the surface gasping for air.

• IMPORTANT; often Columnaris infections are present in well circulated, oxygenated tanks (unlike Aeromonas Infections which are often anaerobic and are much more common in tanks with poor circulation & high bio loads) since Columnaris is an aerobic bacterial pathogen (this despite claims of highly inaccurate, poorly researched Wikipedia and other questionable articles!!).
Columnaris often results in wounds when stress is common in an aquarium or from handling, shipping or any other stress inducing factor for fish. So a diagnosis of a growing sore as Columnaris in a tank that has fish that are under constant harassment by other fish (common in many Lake Malawi Mbuna fish in injuries incurred).
I want to make clear, since many web sites note that Columnaris is generally found in tanks with poor water quality, that this is an incorrect way to diagnose Columnaris since this pathogen is aerobic and can become pathogenic in otherwise well maintained tanks (as per water quality), yet has other stressors that allow for a Columnaris infection such as injury from harassment (often an anecdotal conclusion that a successful diagnosis/treatment was made when in reality the disease was Aeromonas for which often treatment methods are similar resulting in a false conclusion).

In fact since Columnaris is strictly aerobic, the addition of more aeration/circulation will do nothing to stop Columnaris other than to possibly help the fish fight this disease pathogen.
Unfortunately this key point is so often missed, as this totally incorrect statement from a popular web site shows:
“Columnaris reproduces poorly in the presence of oxygen in the water, so keeping the water's oxygen content up by creating a current can help prevent Columnaris” WRONG!

• Sores, wounds, or infections that grow even while under treatment of gram positive medications such as Melafix or Erythromycin may be an indicator of a Columnaris infection as well. Unfortunately Maracyn (which is Erythromycin) is incorrectly prescribed to treat Columnaris by many pet stores and even some misinformed websites that do not know that Columnaris is gram negative while Erythromycin is a gram positive antibiotic.

• Temperature Spikes or sustained high temperatures can often allow for a Columnaris infection to take hold in an otherwise healthy aquarium especially if other stressors are present such as injury, stress, age, etc. (in fact sudden increases in temperature is a common cause of a Columnaris outbreak in an aquarium or pond).
Columnaris thrives in temperatures above 80 F (I have observed 85-90 to be a range where Columnaris is most virulent). Temperatures in the 80s is more a factor in cold water fish such as Goldfish.

• Finally, since Columnaris is an opportunistic aerobic infection even a well maintained aquarium can suffer from a Columnaris infection with even a slight opportunity for infection (assuming this bacterial pathogen is present). A common portal for a Columnaris infection is simply an older and weaker fish. Old age allows many opportunistic infections to get a foothold in at least the fish in question.
This is important to note, since treating a fish that has his/her immunity and normal body functions in decline may often be futile. This does not mean it is not worth while attempting a cure, only that an aquarium keeper should not beat him or herself up over failure to cure a favorite fish that has been well cared for since bringing the fish home. I have seen this with Bettas in particular over the years since these popular and personable fish often win us over in our hearts, but have a short lifespan even with the best of care (this lifespan can vary depending upon whether kept in an aquarium or bowl)

Treatment Information:

Besides the obvious first step of lowering stressors and improving water quality, additional salt is helpful too at a dose of 1 tablespoon per 5 gallons.
In fact a study at the Alabama Agricultural Experimental Station, Auburn University has shown increasing salt concentrations used with Channel catfish (along with heat reduction to 75 F) can treat Columnaris (Flexibacter) infections. This study flies in the face of anecdotal advice about not using salt with catfish.
See the chart to the above/left for the mortality rate of Catfish with Edwardsiella ictaluri (which is a similar gram negative rod bacteria to Columnaris) treated with salt at different levels, please click to enlarge.
You can see from the diagram that the best results were achieved at a dose of 3000 milligrams per liter; based on the weight of salt this converts .67 teaspoons per liter or 2.54 teaspoons per gallon. This is Much more salt than many aquarists commonly believe a Catfish can tolerate. Please keep in mind that this amount of salt is not meant for long term use.

A dip or bath in Mebromin, Potassium Permanganate , Methylene Blue (not to be confused with malachite green) has also helped speed cure in most instances for my clients fish (or my personal fish).
In fact with many instances of Columnaris the Methylene Blue Bath (or the even more strong, but more carefully administered Potassium Permanganate bath) was the main factor of treatment that affected a cure as per many tests.
See the picture above/left for a Betta also displaying secondary Fin Rot that literally was on "deaths door" (laying on the bottom with little response) that recovered with a treatment regimen of Methylene Blue and Kanamycin, please click to enlarge

; 1 – 12 (Continued)
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Old 01-17-2013, 10:30 AM   #302 
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With Methylene Blue or Potassium Permanganate I prepare a double strength bath and place the fish in this solution for 30 minutes).
I strongly recommend this bath as a FIRST course of action. Please see this article for more about Baths:
“Fish Baths, Dips, Direct Treatment Applications”

As well as the above noted baths, direct applications of Methylene Blue, Hydrogen Peroxide or Diluted Potassium Permanganate to external areas of infection can help with recovery and may be your only chance to check the spread of a more serious infection of Columnaris

Many fish diseases, it should be noted, are caused by different bacterial or fungal pathogens that often exhibit similar symptoms, so identification of a specific bacterial or fungal pathogen is not often possible from mere visual inspection of the symptoms on the fish.

By using broad-spectrum treatments such as a Furan Two & Kanamycin combination against diseases with similar symptoms affecting fish, precise identification of specific bacterial or fungal pathogens causing the disease that often display similar symptoms may not be absolutely necessary.

Pimafix shows some promise as a natural treatment for mild cases of Flexibacteria (I would not recommend it for more serious cases). Pimafix is effective for a broad range of bacterial and fungal diseases that typically afflict fish and other aquatic animals (especially gram negative). Fish diseases that may be treated in accordance with this product include bacterial fish diseases, such as fin and tail rot, mouth fungus (often caused by the bacterium Flavobacterium Columnaris); fungal fish diseases (such as those caused by microorganisms of the genera Saprolegnia and Achyle) and the like.

Triple Sulfa may also yield positive results for treatment of Columnaris if used early (although this is not as effective of a treatment for Columnaris as it used to be or as the Kanamycin/Nitrofurazone combination).
My professional use of Triple Sulfa has found that it is a good choice along with baths and some salt for mild to moderate infections and is rarely harsh on aquarium environments including plants.

Finally, there is much unfortunately posted in forums or websites about the use of Tetracycline or Oxytetracyline for the treatment of Columnaris however this is based on old research and misunderstanding of the large Tetracycline class of medications.
Tetracycline is primarily gram positive while Columnaris is a gram negative rod bacteria (although Oxytetracycline is more broad spectrum than Tetracyline Hydrochloride, it is still primarily a gram positive treatment).
This said Minocycline is member of this class of Tetracycline antibiotics and many persons assume all antibiotics in this class are the same, which is not true. Minocycline (sometimes spelled Minocycline) is more gram negative than its cousins and has shown effectiveness for Columnaris. Maracyn 2 is a product that contains Minocycline.
That said, the Tetracyline family of antibiotics should never be your first choice of medication treatment, despite some misinformed information on the internet stating otherwise (please note that I make this statement based on researched medication facts as well as MUCH practical experience dating back to 1979).

Additional Treatments;
I have other treatments I have used, especially to prevent reoccurrence once the fish are OK (such as “Medicated Wonder Shells”, which contain Acriflavin, which is active against flex bacteria in mild cases). I do NOT recommend Medicated Wonder Shells for a full blown infection of Columnaris.

Acriflavin and other ingredients in Medicated Wonder Shells are very effective for true fungus which make these a good choice for a true fungal infection (which are VERY rare in saltwater aquariums).


Flavobacterium columnare gained the nick name “Columnaris” because wet mounts of Flexibacter prepared from diseased fish appear as column-like, "haystack" colonies.

Columnaris (which is a gram negative aerobic bacterium) is often prevalent in systems with poor mineralization (see this article: “Importance of Calcium, electrolytes and more in Aquariums”), crowded conditions (often in re-circulating systems), aggressive inhabitants, poor handling, poor Redox Balance, sudden temperature spikes, and often high bio loads (although high bio loads is more symptomatic of Aeromonas or Saprolegnia).

Columnaris bacterium have caused problems for fish farmers for many years. It is not easy to control, and because the disease is related to stress, an effort to identify and correct the source of the problem is necessary to prevent excessive or chronic mortalities. Fish are particularly vulnerable to Columnaris following handling and transport, especially since Columnaris is opportunistic warm water pathogen that is often always present in the water (it simply needs an “opportunity” to become pathogenic).
Abrasion from nets, transport, crowding, aggression by tank mates, and adverse water quality conditions (such as lack of necessary electrolytes/minerals) create a situation which is very conducive to Columnaris outbreaks
With this in mind; lowering stress (such as removing an aggressive inhabitant), improving minerals/electrolytes, and keeping a clean well filtered aquarium are first steps in treating or preventing Columnaris.

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Old 01-17-2013, 10:30 AM   #303 
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Parameters to Consider for Prevention and Treatment of Columnaris:

*Decrease Fish Load, Crowding Columnaris outbreaks have been shown in University studies to be prevalent in crowded, re-circulating systems, which is a reason I recommend against these types of systems even for fish stores.
This is also common in “African Cichlid” tanks or similar where there is constant stress due to constant battling for hierarchy.

*Ammonia, nitrites; should be 0 ppm

*Nitrates (long term exposure of nitrates over 80 ppm can reduce resistance to disease, under 40 is better),

*Lower your temperature; under 75 F (24 C) (only during treatment)

*pH (depending upon fish kept) Stability is more important than the actual pH.

* KH: generally a KH of 50 + (what is best here depends upon fish kept). This is related to pH and maintains pH stability via adequate carbonates

*Positive Ionic Composition of the Water & GH: this is a little more complex than this article will deal with, however this is related to both the GH and Redox. In a nutshell MG++ (positive magnesium ions) and CA++ (positive calcium ions) play a part in adhesion of Columnaris by reducing surface potential and repulsive forces.
This is important, please read this article for further information: Aquarium Chemistry; GH, Calcium, Magnesium, Positive Mineral Ions/Cations.

*Redox Balance; although not generally a major concern for the average aquarist, but good to know when problems persist especially since newer research shows its importance in disease prevention. This is an important consideration for an aerobic bacterium such as Columnaris, since often other more obvious water parameters may be good while this one is not.

Redox balance is related to GH (although if all positively charges ions are lost from calcium and other minerals that make up GH, you can still have a higher GH of say 300 ppm and still have a poor Redox Balance). But the point I want to make is that websites such as Wikipedia and many others are dead wrong to imply that "The bacteria can persist in water for up to 32 days when the hardness is 50 ppm or more" is a causative factor for Columnaris. While Columnaris Bacterium certainly need these minerals, so do fish and to make the strange leap that therefore any GH over 50 can lead to Columnaris is simply bad science (not to mention proves a lack of practical experience on the part of authors of these articles).
The fact is 50 ppm is a very low GH, even for many soft water fish and more importantly these minerals are essential for correct osmosregulation and a supplier of essential positive electrolytes necessary for fish immunity that Redox research has proven.
It is noteworthy that these mineral cations play an important role in adhesion of Columnaris by reducing surface potential and repulsive forces, so for an aquarium keeper to attempt to lower minerals and positive mineral ions is misguided at best.

*Consider ALL steps outlined in this article: “A Healthy Aquarium; Disease Prevention”. The more steps you follow in this article (such as the use of a UV Sterilizer), the lower your chance of opportunistic disease outbreaks such as Columnaris (or Saprolegnia/Fungus)

For the previous stated water parameters, water changes are often very helpful (although watch cross contamination if you have more than one aquarium).

*Good filtration (two filters is always a good option), is very important for treatment and prevention. It is important to catch this disease early, as Flexibacter advances it attacks the internal organs making for more difficult treatment. Kanamycin is about the only antibiotic that will work at this time (unless you have access to Chloramphenicol). This said, circulation and dissolved oxygen do not play as big a role as with the diseases Aeromonas, Furunculosis, or Vibrio, since Columnaris is a aerobic bacterium that needs oxygen while these others are anaerobic meaning they do best in environments without oxygen.

Please note that Anabantids (such as Gourami and bettas) seem to be especially susceptible to this disease, which is good reason to practice good cleaning practices with these fish even though they have the ability to get oxygen from the air. Wonder Shells are great to use in Betta bowls as they add needed electrolytes and calcium and improve water quality between cleanings.

For further reading about Columnaris, please read these outside resources/references:
*“Influence of water quality and temperature on adhesion of high and low virulence Flavobacterium columnare strains to isolated gill arches”, Decostere, A., Haesebrouck, F., Turnbull, J. F., (1999), Journal of Fish Diseases, 22:1
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Old 01-17-2013, 01:10 PM   #304 
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Originally Posted by Roemgie View Post
Ok if that is what I ran into, would I be better off just throwing away my 5 gallon tank? I don't plan on using it and I was just going to continuously clean it over a course of several weeks.

But if its safer for me to just throw it all away than I will do that. Unfortunately I cannot carry the 5 gallon without spilling the water so I unplugged the heater and I'm waiting until some friends can help me get it to the bathroom.

Do you suggest that I add any chemicals or do anything in the mean time while it just sits there?
IF it is Mycos, dump the water outside where it can dry out. Dumping it down the drain can introduce it into the water system. Up until now, I was always a "flush them" NOTHING goes into the sink/toilet/tub. I dump all my water outside, and plants/dead fish get triple bagged and thrown into the trash.

Safest way is to throw out everything and start completely over...if you can afford to. I would clean the tank out and just let it sit for a while if you think you would ever get fish again.
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Old 01-31-2013, 03:09 PM   #305 
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Originally Posted by LittleBlueFishlets View Post
OK, I'm still not seeing the pieces all fit together.....

Coppermoon and Basement Bettas have verified that their fish were infected with Mycobacteria. And it wasn't just blue fish. There were other colors involved.

However, Mycobacteriosis (all strains) is described as a 'wasting disease' in which it can take a long time (months) for a fish to die.

And the first post in this thread describes a fast-moving disease that targets blue bettas, killing within 12-24 hours, and with the specific symptoms of fin necropsy and swim bladder disorders. (Ie: an acute infection, not a wasting disease.)

My questions:

1) Can a fish infected with Mycobacterial infection appear 'fine' until the final stages? And then death occurs quickly, as the internal organs fail?

2) Can the Mycobacterial infection allow secondary infections to set in? And then it's these secondary infections kill the fish quickly?

3) Why does the first post in this thread specifically mention BLUE bettas? What makes them different?

4) And a question specifically to Coppermoon and Basement Bettas: Did the blue fish that were infected with Myco display any symptoms that were different from the other colors? (More fin discoloration, swim bladder issues, lethargy, etc?)

Thank you.
I know we have another thread about this subject, but I though I would reply to this.

The original male that had it was fine up until he dropsied.

All my other fish just mainly had fin rot that would not go away no matter what I did, then Convention Girl had the rot eat INTO her belly meat...fin rot doesn't do this...that is why it is called fin rot. That is when I started seeking professional help. Monkey Face had already passed by now (My first baby to die), but he was visually diagnosed with Columnaris (because that is what it looked like)..gray patches and all.

Lethargy was another later symptom. Little Blue had the fast gray stuff, and I do think all the meds are why he didn't die quickly.

The yellow girl had her face start rotting off, so I quickly killed her. The yellow male I spawned her too, also started showing signs, so he is also gone. I spawned yellow male with gold girl, so far she is not showing signs (these fish are QT in my 75g fish in, no fish out and I use the cleaner on my hands after I have had them in that tank). I want to watch the process of other fish that are exposed but not directly.
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Old 02-21-2013, 11:14 AM   #306 
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OMG i thought our fish that just die had fin rot but he look exactly like this poor fish and with in hours his whole tail was gray looked like burn paper by the next day he was gone.

we were told to give him melafix but sadly it did nothing :( my son was heart broken.
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Old 02-21-2013, 12:15 PM   #307 
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Originally Posted by Shadyr View Post
Melafix is actually pretty detrimental to bettas. It's based on tea tree oil, which can get in their labyrinth organ and cause them issues. It's also an antiseptic, so it's really for wounds.

That doesn't look like the issue. Just watch him carefully and if you are in doubt about a plant or decoration, take it out
I have to agree here. One of my males that went to the lab, had the same "tail bite" that I see on this guy. Just watch him, and if he gets worse, then put him down. There is really nothing that can be done for them, so as long as he seems happy, let him live. IF/when he gets worse, you will know it is time.

Clean/scrape/bleach, then let it set out in the sunlight for a week or more. After that time, it should be safe to use again. I am scared "crapless" (rated PG) of getting this again, so I am keeping everyone separate now. Just got a new HMDT male, and if/when I find a girl for him, neither of them will be spawned with another fish.
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Old 02-26-2013, 11:23 AM   #308 
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I woke up this morning and the grey area doubled :(

I had to leave to go to class for 2 hours and came back and he had passed away :(

Should I do anything special when I clean the tank out? and should I dispose of the body in a specific way?
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Old 03-19-2013, 10:47 AM   #309 
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((Heater)) I will always...from now on..."wash" my heaters from Tetra/Walmart in distilled vinegar. I lost 5 breeders to the small 2.5-5g heaters. Not sure what it was, but it made the water "white"...not really cloudy...but white. I sent one of the heaters back to Tetra and they tested it...nothing came back, and they reimbursed me for the lost fish, cost of 2 heaters and shipping. I went out and got another heater, washed it in vinegar, and don't have any problems. They keep the 2.5g at 78-80*F.

Mycos: I'd have to say that ANY abnormal loss of fins that DONT respond to clean water/salt/traditional most likely the Mycos. I will no longer try to treat any fish that don't respond to clean water with in 48 hours. I know that sounds harsh, but it is like having a dog kennel and having all the dogs bit by just one rescue with rabies...
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Old 03-26-2013, 10:37 PM   #310 
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Originally Posted by Coppermoon View Post
((Heater)) I will always...from now on..."wash" my heaters from Tetra/Walmart in distilled vinegar. I lost 5 breeders to the small 2.5-5g heaters. Not sure what it was, but it made the water "white"...not really cloudy...but white. I sent one of the heaters back to Tetra and they tested it...nothing came back, and they reimbursed me for the lost fish, cost of 2 heaters and shipping. I went out and got another heater, washed it in vinegar, and don't have any problems. They keep the 2.5g at 78-80*F.

Mycos: I'd have to say that ANY abnormal loss of fins that DONT respond to clean water/salt/traditional most likely the Mycos. I will no longer try to treat any fish that don't respond to clean water with in 48 hours. I know that sounds harsh, but it is like having a dog kennel and having all the dogs bit by just one rescue with rabies...
My friend's fish also disease.
Is that same to what you said ?
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