My kuhli loach is injured or something. He is swimming sporadically and in circles. Sometimes he appears dead, then will become spastic. His neck appears slightly kinked and sometimes he pants.
-It's a 20G, cycled, with tankmates listed in my siggy. They all leave him alone, never even notice him really. It's filtered and heated, at 78-79*. There is also a bubble wand. Several live plants.
-pH is running high- 7.2, so I know for a fact that's not good for the loaches, but ammo, nitrite both at 0, and nitrates are 5. I had added Aq salt at the beginning, when we first started the tank (late December), but I've done several 25-30% WC since then. I have no test for the salinity to confirm, but I doubt there is much left, especially since I dosed it conservatively to begin with.
-My water change schedule is every Saturday, a 25-30% change, and I do a stir method with a turkey baster on the gravel as well.
-He has lots of hidey places, my substrate isn't sand, but it's small pea gravel and he can dig through it.
-He and his pal are fed 2 API shrimp pellets each night, and they also obviously get any leftovers from the other tankmates, which are Aqueon tropical flakes (pinch a day) and possibly the betta's NLS pellets but he usually eats those up. I put half a cube of frozen bloodworms every Friday as well. But, I don't think he can eat. He can't seem to swim well and only swims in circles, and totally spastically.
Because of his crazy symtpoms, I want to get him in a separate tank so I can possibly medicate him, reduce his stress from tank mates, be better able to control the pH, which is a problem for me at the moment, I believe it's our tapwater. Also, I am worried he isn't able to eat much, if at all. What should I do? I bought him a 1.5G with a Tetra Whisper filter. I don't have a heater yet, but will be able to get one. I also have Melafix, epsom salts, Aq Salt, Stress Coat, but I am not sure how much is safe of these things, if at all. Kuhli's don't have scales, so they can't take as much as other fish.
I really want to give him a chance. I bought the loaches without noticing the salinity issue and the site I used for info gave the wrong info on the pH. If I can just keep him well enough til I can rehome him I would be happy. If not, I do have clove oil, if it would be more humane to euthanize him.
Your loach may not be sick. The erratic behaviour you are describing is quite normal with them. Kuhlies like to be energetic in bursts as opposed to the botine loaches with can be active all the time. The panting is just a result of the fast movement. This comes from years of observation of them. In fact a few of mine are doing the loach dance in my tank right now.
That said, there is a problem with your set up. You have too few loaches. Kuhlies are shoaling and highly social fish. They should be in groups of 6 or more. When my shoal died (from old age) down to 3 kuhlies I noticed a sharp withdraw in the remaining fish. They would not eat as well, and I rarely saw them. Upon adding another 6 fish, their appetites increase, and I see a lot more of them now. Plus, the social interactions of these fish are just amazing.
I would NOT separate him from the main tank. Loaches are highly susceptible to ammonia poisoning and rapid temp swings which is what will happen in a small tank. He will also be away from the only other loach which will cause him great stress. If you don't want that 1.5 gal return it. It's of no use to the loach.
Oops, well, I already QTed him before you replied. But, I feel like it's helped him, he seems to have improved some. Also, we siphoned the gravel pretty good and I never located the other loach. I haven't seen him in almost a month, so I think he probably is dead. We had started with three, and one died within the first few days, I think because of our water conditions at the time (I had added aq salt, not knowing they couldn't have any). I've since done a lot of water changes and not added any more.
It's definitely not their normal dancing behavior. I have seen him do that, but this is new. He CAN'T straighten out. His neck is kinked. We did end up QT him, and I'm feeding him a few blood worms and crushed up shrimp pellets. I got him some much finer grain gravel and we've ordered some sand. We are going to make him (and the other loaches we are ordering) a sand bar, and ultimate phase the whole tank towards more of a sand substrate. I also have added him some melafix, at a 1/4 dose. The pH is lower and temp is lower too. I took 2 hours to acclimate him, and he already is swimming better, but still kinked at his neck area. I think he got injured in the gravel, and then got an infection. I was better able to examine him and in the kinked part, there was a noticeable reddened crack or scratch, and he is very skinny, much skinner than he was when we bought him. Also, one of his pectoral fins are torn, pretty far down to the body.
I watched him eat, and because of his neck, it's hard for him to get at his food. He is shaped almost like a shepherd's crook, but like I said, he's already straightened out some over night and panting less. That's what made us decide to commit to the sand bar. He just really needs it. Our gravel is small, but just not small enough.
Thanks for your advice though! I really love the loaches, they are so cute and clever and fun to watch. But, until he gets better enough, and until we get the tank more appropriate for kuhlis, we will hold off on purchasing him some friends. If I still don't feel comfortable with the changes we will have to make to the tank, if I don't feel like I can keep it healthy for them, I will rehome him. I am already looking and putting out the word, just in case. But I would prefer to keep him. I love kuhli loaches almost as much as bettas. :)
I understand your love for these little guys. I like them better than bettas.
Bare-bottomed tanks really aren't good for them either. But one thing you can do it get oak (has to be oak) leave from a clean area (no chemicals sprayed around) and put those in the tank. This replicates their natural environment almost perfectly as they are found in leaf litter. You won't see him as much, but he will be more comfortable this way. I QT my loaches like this and haven't lost one yet with this method.
About the substrate, when you try to put two different kinds of substrate in a tank, they just end up a mixed mess. I tried this before, and it wasn't fun. If you're going to switch to sand, take everything out and do it in one day. It may be a long day, but it is better than watching your sand and gravel get mixed in with each other and then having to sort them out later.
Yeah, I knew he wouldn't want it bare, so it's not sand, but it's very small grain (like, rice-sized) and I made a little "maze" with some larger, smooth rocks. I didn't think about leaf litter. We have lots of plants and leaves outside and we haven't used pesticides ever since we've been here. We have one area that's high up and shouldn't have any run-off so it should be ok. It's with a bunch of pine needles though, and I've heard pine-needles lower the pH of soil. I know he'd prefer lower pH but I don't want it to drop too much, kwim? I'd not put in pine needles anyway, too sharp, but I'm worried they might have seeped into the other leaf litter.
Thanks! I just gave him a whole pellet, and he poked out from his rock maze and he's staring at it. His neck still has a kink but it also still looks much better compared to yesterday and especially compared to last week.
Will his fin regrow? It's so difficult for him to swim without it.
His fin should regrow, but might be a bit crooked. Also be warned that if you drop the temp too much (below 73F) he won't be able to digest protein as well and shouldn't be fed as much. A heater will certainly help him a lot in this case.
As for the oak leaves near pine, they will be just fine.
The thinness you talk about could also be from parasites. These fish are wild-caught and unless they go through a good QT before the store sells them, they will often have parasites or other diseases from the wild. In a healthy setup, the fish are usually able to fight the parasites off, but when they are stressed the parasites can take hold. The best way to treat is to de-stress the fish as much as possible and feed them a food with garlic in it. I like the Thera+ from New Life Spectrum as it contains the most garlic.