Bacterial Infections

Discussion in 'Fish Disease Treatment and Diagnosis' started by Humblefish, Feb 10, 2015.

  1. Humblefish

    Humblefish Dr. Fish Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Expert Contributor Article Contributor Louisiana Reef Club Partner Member 2018

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    Why fish get bacterial infections

    We all know the water in our aquarium is full of bacteria. Most of it is good (like nitrifying bacteria), but some can be bad and harmful to marine animals. The bad kind is usually kept at bay by a healthy fish's natural immune system. Or if the fish becomes "sick" and displays symptoms of a bacterial infection, many times the immune system is still able to fight it off without the aid of antibiotic medication. So if you stop and think about it, these bacterial infections in fish are akin to our own never-ending battle with germs, viruses, and of course, infections. ;)

    Many factors make a fish more susceptible to infection. First, a cut or open wound is usually required for infection to set in. Even tiny exit wounds left by feeding ich trophonts can get infected. Poor water quality can fuel bacteria levels. Also, anything that lowers the fish's overall immune system makes infection more likely. Stress (ex. fish fighting), malnourishment, or if the fish is battling an ongoing parasitic infestation (ex. ich) makes a "secondary" bacterial infection possible. For example, back when I practiced "ich management" it seemed periodically I would have a fish develop “popeye” or some suspicious red mark. Now that I quarantine (QT) and prophylactically treat all my fish, I almost never see anything like that once the fish enters my display tank (DT). Disease-free fish are healthier fish and more capable of overcoming potential infections.

    Gram positive vs. gram negative: The majority of bacterial infections seen in established fish are caused by gram positive bacteria. These can mostly be dealt with successfully by the fish’s natural immune system; in fact, in some cases symptoms are barely noticeable. On the other hand, gram negative bacterial infections are more often seen in newly acquired fish, and are more likely to require antibiotic treatment. In fact, some fish can die within 24-48 hours of showing symptoms due to the aggressive nature of some gram negative bacteria. These strains can easily overwhelm the fish's natural immune system. Unfortunately, there's no easy way of visibly differentiating gram positive from gram negative (without taking a sample and then using a staining process.) The belief that, "if it looks really bad or is widespread" denotes a gram negative infection is oftentimes true, but not 100% of the time.

    So, what does a bacterial infection look like? Sometimes it's self-describing: Popeye/cloudy eyes, fin & tail rot, dropsy (bloated fish), etc. But some other bacterial infections, such as furunculosis, hemorrhagic septicemia, etc., can have varying visible symptoms. Any "redness" or open sores/wounds on a fish should be viewed with suspicion. Also, a white film or "fungus" looking growth can denote a bacterial infection. However, these physical symptoms can also mean something entirely different. For example, redness around the gills is a symptom of ammonia burn, while a white "cauliflower-like" growth on the fins & spines is most likely just Lymphocystis, a harmless virus found in many fish. So, doing proper research and not just lumping everything into one category is vital. Whether or not a bacterial infection is contagious is highly dependent upon the strain you are dealing with and the conditioning of your other fish. So, there is no easy answer. :eek:

    How to treat a bacterial infection: First off, there are many things you can do to prevent a bacterial infection from happening in the first place. Some of these include:
    • Maintaining a proper environment (i.e. clean water) for your fish to live in.
    • Separating two quarrelling fish before cuts/wounds get too serious.
    • Utilizing proper nutrition (i.e. nori, foods high in protein), and soaking fish food with vitamin supplements (examples: Selcon, Zoecon, Vita-chem; or even Omega-3 fish oil - props to Paul B for the fish oil recommendation). These will help boost your fish’s natural immune system.
    • Utilizing a fish QT - to prevent parasites and other nasties (including harmful gram negative bacteria) from being introduced into your DT. This will alleviate the possibility of a "secondary" bacterial infection popping up while the fish's immune system is already compromised from battling parasites.
    • Running a UV sterilizer may help in certain situations, as that will lower the overall number of harmful bacteria found in the water column.
    When to medicate: Sometimes all the vitamins, proper nutrition and clean water are just not enough. Sometimes a fish's natural immune system needs a helping hand (like our own). When to QT and pull the trigger on using antibiotics is not an easy decision; it's a judgment call.

    As a general rule, I only pull & treat if: (a) The fish looks really bad or (b) It is a newly acquired fish showing signs of infection. The latter is an easy call for me as I QT all new fish anyway. Below is a list of antibiotic medications you can use. It is not a comprehensive list by any means, but just some readily available options. Whatever medication you go with, be sure it contains broad spectrum or wide spectrum antibiotics capable of treating both gram-positive and gram-negative bacterial diseases.
    • Kanamycin (ex. Seachem Kanaplex)
    • Nitrofurazone (ex. Furan-2)
    • Nitrofuracin Green Powder (Great for treating “red sores” commonly seen on butterflyfish and some angelfish. It is also useful for healing wounds and treating ammonia burn.)
    • Triple Sulfa Powder (Good broad spectrum antibacterial medication; but IME can be harsh on certain fish.)
    • Erythromycin & Minocycline combination (ex. Maracyn 1 & 2). If you are confident it is just a gram positive infection, then API E.M. Erythromycin is a good choice.
    • For really bad infections, I advocate combining metronidazole (ex. Seachem MetroPlex), Furan-2 and Kanaplex to achieve a very broad spectrum of treatment. Props to “hedgedrew” for enlightening me of this.
    More info about specific antibiotics: http://www.americanaquariumproducts.com/AquariumMedication2.html

    Although it is not optimal to do so, you can combine antibiotics with copper treatment or Chloroquine phosphate. Since I do not use hyposalinity to treat Ich, I have no experience using antibiotics in hypo conditions. I do not recommend mixing Prazipro with antibiotics, or any other medication for that matter. It is important to remember that every medication you use depletes the water of oxygen. Combining meds just exacerbates this. Therefore, it is absolutely imperative to provide additional gas exchange when treating.

    DO NOT overdose antibiotics; if in doubt, always underdose. Antibiotics can be harsh on and even kill certain fish; although appetite suppression is much more common. Some advocate just applying antibiotic ointment to the affected area(s) topically, but I have zero experience doing that with fish. Antibiotics will kill some of the nitrifying bacteria in your bio-filter, but rarely wipes them all out to the point where you see an ammonia spike. However, for this reason and the negative impact antibiotics can have on corals/inverts, I strongly discourage their use in a DT.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2016
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  2. 6lilfish

    6lilfish Member

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    Awesome read

    Thanks for writing this up.
     
  3. Humblefish

    Humblefish Dr. Fish Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Expert Contributor Article Contributor Louisiana Reef Club Partner Member 2018

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  4. drstratton

    drstratton Valuable Member

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    The info you share is so good and much appreciated! Thanks for all you do!!!
     
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  5. Humblefish

    Humblefish Dr. Fish Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Expert Contributor Article Contributor Louisiana Reef Club Partner Member 2018

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    Just wanted to add this excellent article to this thread:

    Use of Antibiotics in Ornamental Fish Aquaculture
    Roy P. E. Yanong
    University of Florida IFAS Extension

    https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fa084
     
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  6. Humblefish

    Humblefish Dr. Fish Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Expert Contributor Article Contributor Louisiana Reef Club Partner Member 2018

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  7. chicago

    chicago Well-Known Member

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    any idea what this is.. he was in QT.. no sign of ammonia but is this a bacteria infection or possible ammonia burn and I missed it? [​IMG]
     
  8. melypr1985

    melypr1985 totally addicted R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Expert Contributor Article Contributor Moderator Emeritus Partner Member 2018

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    You know what I think I missed in your other post...... Has he been treated or tested for flukes? A quick freshwater dip can confirm that for you. I'm looking for the root cause to this infection. Flukes seems like the likely culprit from looking at her.
     
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  9. chicago

    chicago Well-Known Member

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    issue started out with small red dot in the back fin. fish has been in hypo for about 14 days. doing ttm and hypo together. 10 gallon tank with 9 gallons of water changed every 24 hour min to keep ammonia at very low levels. But that might have been issue or perhaps hypo? lost her late yester day and the area in front was like a large inflamed bruise almost .. puffy to the touch. she was in with some flagfin hybrids.. so I think I will do a prazi treatment on them.. right now I did an api general cure.
     
  10. Jam-reef

    Jam-reef Member

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    So what might this be? One of my damsel's developed this bare spot. He's eating fine not breathing fast or anything?

    IMG_5426.JPG
     
  11. Humblefish

    Humblefish Dr. Fish Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Expert Contributor Article Contributor Louisiana Reef Club Partner Member 2018

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  12. Legonch

    Legonch Active Member

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    Anyone have an idea what this is? Currently treating with kanaplex and metroplex, stuff is still growing...... fishdisease1.jpg
     
  13. melypr1985

    melypr1985 totally addicted R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Expert Contributor Article Contributor Moderator Emeritus Partner Member 2018

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    How long has the angel had this? My first thought is lympho, but that is usually more white looking than the brown I'm seeing there. How long have you been treating with kanaplex and metro? How often are you dosing the water?
     
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  14. 4FordFamily

    4FordFamily Tang, Angel, & Wrasse Addict Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Partner Member 2019 Article Contributor Build Thread Contributor Partner Member 2018

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    Looks like infected lympho, almost. I saw this years ago on a flame angel. It had lympho but it somehow opened it up and it became infected and it presented itself similarly.

    My only other guess is fungus? Which I know is quite uncommon.
     
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  15. Humblefish

    Humblefish Dr. Fish Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Expert Contributor Article Contributor Louisiana Reef Club Partner Member 2018

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    Might be one of the rare cases of fungus in SW fish. If true, Melafix & Pimafix would be worth a shot.
     
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  16. jeff williams

    jeff williams Well-Known Member

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    Humblefish I thought most aquarium bacterial infections were gram+ as you stated in the opening of this post, however as I read further you posted a link in this post
    https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fa084 That states just the opposite. I was wondering if you could clarify this ?
     
  17. Humblefish

    Humblefish Dr. Fish Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Expert Contributor Article Contributor Louisiana Reef Club Partner Member 2018

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    In my experience:
    • An established fish in the DT who shows signs of infection is most likely being afflicted by gram positive bacteria. Sometimes it's barely noticeable because a healthy fish's natural immune system should be able to fend off gram positive bacteria without any assistance from us. Of course, food soaking a vitamin supplement can't hurt. ;)
    • A new fish (that was collected in the ocean) who shows signs of infection is most likely being afflicted by gram negative bacteria. In most cases, this infection is "secondary" to a preexisting parasitic or worm infestation such as ich, velvet or flukes. Having to deal with both simultaneously is often too much for most fishes's natural immune systems. I discuss this quagmire here: https://www.reef2reef.com/ams/the-bacterial-infection-predicament.315/
     
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  18. frcarvajal

    frcarvajal Active Member

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    So, what if my fish already had bacterial infections or fungus on my DT and all died.. How can I treat the DT when is not recommended to use antibiotics on DT?
     
  19. Humblefish

    Humblefish Dr. Fish Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Expert Contributor Article Contributor Louisiana Reef Club Partner Member 2018

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    You need to go fallow (4-6 weeks usually does it) to let all the harmful bacteria die off, without a fish host to feed upon.

    A much faster way is running a UV sterilizer for a few days to kill all the free floating bacteria in the water. A diatom filter should work just as well.
     
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  20. jeff williams

    jeff williams Well-Known Member

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    Humblefish will this also kill ueronima? My understanding is this can servive without a host. Also how about mycobacterium marinum aka (TB)
     
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