Porcupine Puffer Spiraling and Turning Dark Brown

Conch King

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Hello, I checked on my tank and my porcupine puffer was lying on the sand, he attempts to swim, but spirals down into the sand. He is also having trouble staying upright and his coloration has turned from a light brown last night to a dark brown today.
Parameters:
SG: 1.024
Temp: 78.4
No Nitrite Reading
Nitrate: 20ppm
I am growing him out in a FOWLR 50 gallon tank with a pair of clownfish and a goby, before eventually moving him into a 350 gallon. He is currently in a breeder box so he doesn’t hurt himself by hitting a rock or anything. I recently picked him up and just finished quarantining him. During quarantine I didn’t see any signs of illness.

FFB29F54-B5F3-470D-A9D5-47453EB9AC26.jpeg
 

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Jay Hemdal

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Sorry - the puffer has a massive infection (skin discoloration and rapid breathing). What did you treat it with during quarantine? I can't tell you from the video/pictures what the cause of the infection might be, but it is VERY serious. The clownfish and goby look o.k.?

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Conch King

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@Jay Hemdal Yes, the clownfish and goby look perfectly fine and are acting normal. During quarantine I treat with copper power for all my fish as this can help with a variety of parasites. What course of action do you recommend I take? Thank you
 
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Jay Hemdal

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@Jay Hemdal Yes, the clownfish and goby look perfectly fine and are acting normal. During quarantine I treat with copper power for all my fish as this can help with a variety of parasites. What course of action do you recommend I take? Thank you
This is a tough case, since the puffer is in a bad way. I can suggest a "Hail Mary" course of action to give it a five minute freshwater dip. If the issue is a parasite, this may buy you some time. However, since the puffer is so close to death, the added stress of a freshwater dip may push it over the edge...sorry!

Jay
 
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Conch King

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This is a tough case, since the puffer is in a bad way. I can suggest a "Hail Mary" course of action to give it a five minute freshwater dip. If the issue is a parasite, this may buy you some time. However, since the puffer is so close to death, the added stress of a freshwater dip may push it over the edge...sorry!

Jay
Ok, I will try the freshwater dip. Cross your fingers for me, and thank you for all the help. I greatly appreciate it.
 

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Looks like a fluke or bacterial issue going on. this may with the skin peel be a PH or other water quality issue despite the other occupants doing well.
You did not mention ammonia level and it should be <.03 or as close to zero as possible. Increasing oxygen may be helpful with as simple as airstone. Follow Jay's recommendation. Although Freshwater dip (same temp as display tank) can be helpful, it can stress a fish out but there is something going on here and some action needs to be started.
 
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Conch King

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Looks like a fluke or bacterial issue going on. this may with the skin peel be a PH or other water quality issue despite the other occupants doing well.
You did not mention ammonia level and it should be <.03 or as close to zero as possible. Increasing oxygen may be helpful with as simple as airstone. Follow Jay's recommendation. Although Freshwater dip (same temp as display tank) can be helpful, it can stress a fish out but there is something going on here and some action needs to be started.
I did add an air stone to the tank this morning. My ammonia <0.02. PH is 7.9. I will be performing a 25% water change here shortly. Also, the water for the freshwater dip is heating up to match the temperature of the tank so I will be doing that shortly.
 
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Conch King

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This is a tough case, since the puffer is in a bad way. I can suggest a "Hail Mary" course of action to give it a five minute freshwater dip. If the issue is a parasite, this may buy you some time. However, since the puffer is so close to death, the added stress of a freshwater dip may push it over the edge...sorry!

Jay
He made it through the freshwater dip, although I do not see any noticeable change in condition. I am going to watch him closely over the next couple days if he can make it that long and will keep you updated. Do you have any other recommendations or is it a lost cause. Thank you for your help and kindness throughout this.
 

vetteguy53081

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He made it through the freshwater dip, although I do not see any noticeable change in condition. I am going to watch him closely over the next couple days if he can make it that long and will keep you updated. Do you have any other recommendations or is it a lost cause. Thank you for your help and kindness throughout this.
Keep an eye on it yes, and you wont get an immediate change. At minimum, the FW dip you did alleviates possibility of flukes. It was probably not mentioned. . . By chance on the bottom of bucket you used for FW dip, did you notice anything on bottom that looked like sesame seeds of fish scales present? If so- those are flukes.
 

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Be extra careful with your water changes, making sure the salinity and temperature are exact matches and the mixed saltwater is well aerated. Puffers are most sensitive to rapid water condition changes. So even if it's pristine clean saltwater, if it doesn't match salinity and temp of existing tank conditions, you will stress the puffer. Easy does it is his best chance of survival.
 
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Conch King

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Keep an eye on it yes, and you wont get an immediate change. At minimum, the FW dip you did alleviates possibility of flukes. It was probably not mentioned. . . By chance on the bottom of bucket you used for FW dip, did you notice anything on bottom that looked like sesame seeds of fish scales present? If so- those are flukes.
I do not see anything on the bottom of the freshwater tray. However, since the freshwater dip, the area around his eyes and mouth has returned to its normal coloration. Unfortunately he still struggles to swim and spirals before sinking.
 
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Conch King

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Be extra careful with your water changes, making sure the salinity and temperature are exact matches and the mixed saltwater is well aerated. Puffers are most sensitive to rapid water condition changes. So even if it's pristine clean saltwater, if it doesn't match salinity and temp of existing tank conditions, you will stress the puffer. Easy does it is his best chance of survival.
Would you recommend the water change, or do you think I should leave it as is for now and watch him? Params are above. Thank you for your response.
 

DaddyFish

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Would you recommend the water change, or do you think I should leave it as is for now and watch him? Params are above. Thank you for your response.
You haven't exactly said so, but I get the impression that the 50-gal is your QT or Hospital setup, or is it simply an isolation/growout tank?

With other fish in that tank currently doing well, and assuming the puffer continues to live, you're going to soon be faced with how/what do I treat the puffer for disease/condition ??? It's strictly personal preference here, but I've lost more puffers trying to force therapy than carefully improving their conditions and treating sequentially. However, your puffer is in BAD shape. It's a hard choice you face and I feel for you!

Bottom line for me... IF you are confident the water parameters are good (as they appear) and the other fish continue to do just fine, I'd keep a close eye on ammonia, maybe dose some Prime just in case, keep the extra aeration going, and concentrate on getting the little guy to eat. I wouldn't make ANY big changes until you can get him strong enough to withstand some medication.

Be sure to keep the lighting dim (or off) and reduce tank flow so he's not exerting a lot of effort to remain still.
 

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I’ve seen this multiple times at the saltwater shop I work at. A lot of times, we don’t know the specific cause. Best guess is generally something went wrong in transport; Ie sudden changes in temp. Or, they were being picked on, got a cut, and it became infected. We do a freshwater dip with 3 drops of mild copper for 2 minutes. This seems to be the best chance at recovery for our puffers but there’s still a good chance it’ll die regardless.
 
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Conch King

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You haven't exactly said so, but I get the impression that the 50-gal is your QT or Hospital setup, or is it simply an isolation/growout tank?

With other fish in that tank currently doing well, and assuming the puffer continues to live, you're going to soon be faced with how/what do I treat the puffer for disease/condition ??? It's strictly personal preference here, but I've lost more puffers trying to force therapy than carefully improving their conditions and treating sequentially. However, your puffer is in BAD shape. It's a hard choice you face and I feel for you!

Bottom line for me... IF you are confident the water parameters are good (as they appear) and the other fish continue to do just fine, I'd keep a close eye on ammonia, maybe dose some Prime just in case, keep the extra aeration going, and concentrate on getting the little guy to eat. I wouldn't make ANY big changes until you can get him strong enough to withstand some medication.

Be sure to keep the lighting dim (or off) and reduce tank flow so he's not exerting a lot of effort to remain still.
I think I will hold off on the water change and monitor the tank very closely. He ate very well last night and I am hoping he didn’t lose his appetite. Thank you for your help.
 
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Conch King

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I’ve seen this multiple times at the saltwater shop I work at. A lot of times, we don’t know the specific cause. Best guess is generally something went wrong in transport; Ie sudden changes in temp. Or, they were being picked on, got a cut, and it became infected. We do a freshwater dip with 3 drops of mild copper for 2 minutes. This seems to be the best chance at recovery for our puffers but there’s still a good chance it’ll die regardless.
I will have to try this, although I think I will hold off until tomorrow since he already went through a basic freshwater dip today and I don’t want to over stress him in his condition. Thank you
 

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I will have to try this, although I think I will hold off until tomorrow since he already went through a basic freshwater dip today and I don’t want to over stress him in his condition. Thank you
No problem! We’ve all been in your shoes with the agonizing decision of to medicate or not. I once had internal parasites that got into my tank via snails -__- It took me like two months to get rid of them.

Sometimes they also get infections if they cut themselves eating abrasive foods like snails or clams. The shell could’ve cut the fleshy side of his beak and become infected from there. If you’re worried about stressing him, you can also add stress coat to the dip and the tank itself. Also, it helps to turn off the lights or keep them as dim as possible.
 

NaturalGothic

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And yes, defiantly leave him be for tonight. Doing too much is as bad as letting the infection fester. I’d wait at least 24 hours before doing a second dip.
I will have to try this, although I think I will hold off until tomorrow since he already went through a basic freshwater dip today and I don’t want to over stress him in his condition. Thank you
 

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I do not see anything on the bottom of the freshwater tray. However, since the freshwater dip, the area around his eyes and mouth has returned to its normal coloration. Unfortunately he still struggles to swim and spirals before sinking.
Continue added aeration, low lights to keep it relaxed and great to hear on coloration as mentioned- FW dip was sort of a must.
 
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