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Old 05-21-2012, 09:02 AM   #1 
SpookyTooth's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: England
Might be dealing with fish TB


I'm in quite a bit of panic at the moment due to our 22 gallon guppy and platy aquarium downstairs. It's heated to 76 F and fed once a day using one of three things: tropical flakes, freeze dried bloodworms or freeze dried daphnia. The tank is completely cycled and most definitely filtered (I don't know the brand name but I made sure the filter was more powerful than the tank required). The water change schedule is beyond me, my mother maintains this tank and I know the fish need more regular care. I've been unable to help due to illness (I can only maintain my own aquariums) but of late have been pushing myself more to get a few jobs done and at least try to help out more -- this could have a huge negative impact on my health. We will be looking to rehome some of the fish if I can prove to mum and myself that they are healthy.

I won't allow mum to go near the tank until I know what's going on. If it is something serious like fish TB I don't want her getting in contact with the water but I would like to do a water change using rubber gloves and a disposable cup. Even so, I have a compromised immune system and need to be careful (otherwise I'd be downstairs doing a water change right now despite being on my own).

To get to the point and if you hadn't already guessed I'm getting increasingly concerned that the aquarium in question may be in the midst of a fish TB outbreak. Before I continue I'd like to say that we have not had mass deaths of fish -- research has shown me that this won't always be the case. I'd really love to get some advice on what you all think before I proceed with any course of action. I've been stressed out lately and may be overreacting due to that so I'd appreciate some level-headed responses. Also, this post is going to be rather long as I want to give you as much information as possible.

What triggered my fear is seeing one of our guppies sat at the bottom of the tank waddling around with a large belly -- I assumed she was giving birth as she was breathing rapidly and staying hidden, her belly didn't look any larger than our other guppy when she gave birth previously. I checked the next morning just to make sure I wasn't mistaken and saw she was even more bloated, with no babies in sight I quarantined her and started her on an epsom salt treatment as her scales were also beginning to look raised. I know all about dropsy and have dealt with it in the past but this caused me to take a really, really good look at the other fish as I know dropsy is a symptom of something not being right in the water rather than a disease itself.

We have lost fish to dropsy in the past however this was a very long time (years) ago.

Bent Spine
We have a big grey female guppy with a beautiful blue tail. When we bought her she had a bent spine - I didn't know about fish TB at the time and assumed she had suffered with some manner of poisoning or malnutrition at some stage in her life. We've had her for several months. She's never shown any difficulties swimming but has always had rather a large body. She's much bigger than our other guppies both in length and "width".

Last night I noticed that she had started to waddle a little while swimming, I thought it might be SBD but I took another look at her tail and saw it was even more bent than usual. She doesn't appear to be any larger than usual but I will check on her again later.

I've had a look at some of the platys and they are beginning to show signs of bent spines...

One of our younger male fish (fry from about eight months ago) looked particularly thin. I thought it was either internal parasites or lack of food (though the tank was overfed at the time, that was rectified quickly) so I moved him to a tank on his own and fed him by hand to ensure he was eating and confirmed that he did not have internal parasites. After he regained some weight I added him back to the main tank and over time he has become underweight and thin again despite me seeing him eat regularly.

Our green tailed, grey bodied female guppy has also lost a lot of weight. She used to have a healthy tummy but recently has shown more and more signs of something going wrong. I'm trying to catch her defecating so I can see if she has internal parasites.

A few young fish are also looking quite thin. The tank is no longer overfed but is not underfed either.

Weight gain & big bellies
Some of our other fish have particularly large abdomens despite our careful feeding routine. They look unnaturally large but don't show the same "type" of largeness as other fish mentioned above. They have no problems swimming, they aren't constipated and don't have raised scales... they simply look... fat when compared to healthy-bodied specimens.

Black Scales
Now I can't tell if these are part of the fishes' natural colours or something else but a few of the fish (the emaciated male I mentioned in particular...) have random black scales dotted over their body. It looks odd but not what I would call unnatural - though I may be mistaken.

Grey Lesions
Nothing to report here. I've not been able to see any form of lesions or open sores.

I noticed symptoms appearing over a matter of a couple of days.

Looking at the above, does anyone have any idea what might be going on? Does the tank just need more regular maintenance? Is there anything I should do or can do to test for fish TB? If it does turn out to be TB does anyone have any recommendations as to how I should proceed? I know how to protect myself and my family from fish TB (though I did dunk my hands in the tank a few days ago to hook out a couple of moss balls before all of this started and have a bad immune system) but what can I do for the fish downstairs?

I can't thank you enough for your time and hope to Heaven that this is simply something that can be fixed with more regular water changes... but my hope is fading fast, the more I look at the fish the more I wonder and worry.

I've told my family about fish TB and that the fish may need to be euthanized if they do indeed have this horrible disease so we're all prepared... I just wish I was able to take care of this aquarium full-time as well.
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Old 05-21-2012, 09:15 AM   #2 
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Not sure about the tb, what I do know is gloves will do the trick for keeping your hands TB free, if you notice any swelling or "bubbling" in your hands then go see your doctor and let them know of the tank problem, it shouldn't be too major, from what I've heard anyway!Dont use a pair of gloves more than once, and always dispose of them properly (burning etc)
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Old 05-21-2012, 11:02 AM   #3 
Join Date: Mar 2010
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The Mycobacteriosis or fish TB not to be confused with one of the few things we can get from our aquariums-especially if you have a compromised immune system......

There are over 90 Mycobacteria species and they are everywhere, however, not all of them become pathogenic.
They are always in our tank and some fish can be asymptomatic carriers and once the immune response is compromised in some way can become symptomatic.

Always assume it is in your aquarium and if you have a compromised immune system....wear gloves, wash hands and inform your doctor-especially if you have painful slow healing wounds on your hands.

You may want to invest in a UV sterilizer.
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Old 05-21-2012, 11:14 AM   #4 
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Location: Kingston, Ontario
A UV sterilizer may reduce the bacterial population down to something the fish can manage (as most fish live with this disease all the time). Your problem is that there is simply too much of the bacteria.
Word of caution, UV sterilizers can be very hard on the fish themselves from what I hear from a different community that uses them more often.
At the point many of these fish sound like they're at I doubt they can "get better."

If you are worried for your own safety, please just have the fish euthanized and the tank disposed of (I personally would break it so no smarty gets the idea of reusing it). It seems pretty hopeless for the fish and since you have a compromised immune system I don't think you should bother trying to save them.
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Old 05-21-2012, 11:36 AM   #5 
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Thank you all for your advice and information, despite the horror that could surround this thing I still find the science behind it interesting. But... I'm dreading the thought of euthanizing these animals -- I have to do what is best both of us in the long run I suppose...

How would I go about doing that? Should I do it to the whole tank? Perhaps it may be better if whomever has information regarding it could please PM me so as not to upset anyone who may be skimming over this topic.

I thought to myself that this'd have to happen but I'm actually pretty scared now that it really is happening. Bleh...
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Old 05-22-2012, 05:31 AM   #6 
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Sorry for the double post.

Every time I've looked at that tank I seem to find another fish that shows symptoms. Most of them are swimming around okay and they've all got a appetite but they just don't look right. The little guppy I was treating with epsom salt passed a short while ago so at least she isn't suffering any more.

Mum works at a local private school and has gotten in touch with the head of the biology department who is going to photocopy some info on MB for us. I'd like to learn more before taking any other steps.
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Old 05-22-2012, 05:43 AM   #7 
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Fish TB is actually quite rare.
I would be more inclined to suspect enviornmental issues (ie) lack of maint, water quality, and or hardness that live bearer's need.
What are water stats for ammonia,nitrites,nitrAtes,pH,GH?
Is also possible that genetic abnormality has played a part.
You mention a fish that was purchased with bent spine, and if this fish was allowed to breed and fry were produced, then genetic abnormality could have been passed down to fry who if allowed to grow and breed with sibling fish (inbreeding), could pass the genetic abnormality as well to their offspring.
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Old 05-22-2012, 06:01 AM   #8 
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I do quite agree with you, 1077, that the variety of symptoms could be due to genetics or water quality; I've been researching fish TB and the new information I've been given by the colleague I mentioned earlier supports that it may be TB rather than solely an environmental thing. I am still open to other ideas though. I've taken some time to sit and calm down (I've been utterly frustrated and worried about this whole thing) and will continue to monitor the fish.

I will be completely honest with you: I have not tested the water yet. I'm going to be testing it before mum does a water change tonight (after having spoken with her we've decided this would be best for at least the short term), hopefully this will help us determine an underlying cause to the variety of problems we're encountering. I'm unable to do anything right now anyway as she is as work and I can't get to the tank on my own.

Due to how downhill the aquarium's maintenance has gone I've told my mum that if we can guarantee that the problem within the tank is not fish TB then we will be rehoming every fish and removing the tank. It simply isn't fair on the animals that they are kept in conditions that could be improved through more regular maintenance, my mum is a busy woman but I don't think we should have this large tank if even I can't get to it to help out. I feel horrible and rightly so, it was stupid of me to consider getting a large tank and even stupier for me to ask mum to maintain it (she had offered but if I could at least get to the blinkin' thing I could have helped). We've had this tank for years but have never had a problem like this... I guess it's a wake up call.

I'm hoping I've learned and can move forward now no matter what has to be done with the fish and the tank.
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Old 05-22-2012, 07:32 AM   #9 
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Spooks! I'm so sorry you're going through this! I don't have any help to offer but. . . *hugs* Good luck over there, and PLEASE. . . always put your own health first!
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Old 05-22-2012, 12:38 PM   #10 
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I really really appreciate the hug, thank you Chesherca :)

We just completed a water change. I tested parameters before hand and they were as follows:

Ammonia - 0ppm
Nitrites - 0ppm
Nitrates - 80ppm (eek!)
pH - 8.0

We don't have tests for the gH, so I apologize about that - I can safely say that we have hard water though (calcium deposites aplenty!). I had assumed that the nitrates were high because we have algae. Mum's friend at work generously donated a large box of disposable gloves to us and we used those while siphoning the water out + mulm from the gravel.

I've been sent a few articles that I'm going to read over, as well as prolonged exposure to high nitrates.

Thank you again everyone for your help and support.
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