Unknown Neurological Wrasse Disease (UNWD)

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Jay Hemdal

Jay Hemdal

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I suspect this wrasse is suffering from this new disease / syndrome. It just came out of QT into a holding a system while I finish a new build. It’s still having a feedings response but is becoming increasingly uncoordinated in its swimming. Too bad, I love the Fairy Wrasses, but I won’t be buying any more until this new issues is identified & hopefully with a treatment.

Could be, it has the key symptom of still trying to feed. However, this fish seems to have a white spot on its head, that *could* be a symptom of having jumped and run into something, which is the often given cause of this syndrome. However, you say the fish is getting worse - injuries don't do that, they are acute and tend to get better over time, not worse.

Jay
 
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Jay Hemdal

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This is really bad—why are vendors still selling wrasses that are almost guaranteed to die within weeks of being received by customers? I know, profits. I think if the industry wants to be better perceived by those who want to legislate it to extinction it needs to be more consumer and lifeform friendly… just saying maybe there should be a temporary moratorium on selling these wrasses until we figure out what’s going on. Thanks for this valuable info, and glad to see we’re reefing neighbors. I’m in Southern Westchester, in Pelham.

We don't know how common this issue actually is. I've only had one case in hand myself (but I don't buy many fairy wrasses).

Wholesalers don't see latent issues, they don't hold their fish long enough. Same thing as with green chromis and Uronema - you don't see that until the fish are at the hobbyist's tank.


Jay
 
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Jay Hemdal

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Never seen this disease. As a neurosurgeon I could help to brainstorm this issue. Barotrauma (air embolism) could affect eventually only part of the brain, that received a main arterial supply. For that I would expect unilateral weakness always on the same side. With unilateral anesthesia, so pinching the fish on the same side would elicit no response while on the normal side it could…
I would add acute onset as soon as the fish surfaces.
I’m here to help if needed in my area of knowledge.

And congratulations for the amazing work as always.

Barotrauma, when I've seen it, was associated with buoyancy issues that these fish don't show. In addition, barotrauma shows up right away (or is exacerbated by flying in a lower pressure plane cargo hold). These fish look good for days to weeks and then slowly develop symptoms. I have one histopathology report from a public aquarium, but I don't have permission to release it yet (even fish medical records are apparently kept confidential!).

Jay
 

nbooks

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following this with interest. Im a pharmacist by day (so basically a giant nerd), and have had my first fairy wrasse in qt tank for two weeks being watched closely. Believe it or not she came from petco so i unfortunately dont know how long she was there/source...but might be a data point anyway
 

Ascartes

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Apologies in advance for not having pictures, but I recently bought a Naoko wrasse (from LFS) that didn't make it.
In case it is relevant, the fish did receive a pre-QT bath in Ruby Reef Rally, as I have done with all fish acquisitions recently
First few days I had it, was eating fine and no noticeable issues.
It slowly went from keeping the body mostly straight ----------- to developing a droop, like a ------_ that developed into ----___, the keyboard makes it look a little more dramatic but it was a clear droop (almost to a full 90 degree shift from head to tail by the last day it was alive) still ate, still woke and rested apparently normal, until 1 morning was dead on its side in the QT.
Fully cycled, no ammonia readings, no medications. No droppings in post-mortem FW dip, and no signs of any other ailments.
 
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Jay Hemdal

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Apologies in advance for not having pictures, but I recently bought a Naoko wrasse (from LFS) that didn't make it.
In case it is relevant, the fish did receive a pre-QT bath in Ruby Reef Rally, as I have done with all fish acquisitions recently
First few days I had it, was eating fine and no noticeable issues.
It slowly went from keeping the body mostly straight ----------- to developing a droop, like a ------_ that developed into ----___, the keyboard makes it look a little more dramatic but it was a clear droop (almost to a full 90 degree shift from head to tail by the last day it was alive) still ate, still woke and rested apparently normal, until 1 morning was dead on its side in the QT.
Fully cycled, no ammonia readings, no medications. No droppings in post-mortem FW dip, and no signs of any other ailments.
That does sound like a classic case of this issue, sorry.
Jay
 

J.D.

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Could be, it has the key symptom of still trying to feed. However, this fish seems to have a white spot on its head, that *could* be a symptom of having jumped and run into something, which is the often given cause of this syndrome. However, you say the fish is getting worse - injuries don't do that, they are acute and tend to get better over time, not worse.

Jay
Thank you, Jay, for what it’s worth when I got home from work the fish was alternating between swimming in a corkscrew manner and laying upside down on the sand, died a few hours later.
 

Ascartes

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Thanks Jay,
Is there some further steps we can take in helping this along? I understand you have some documents we can't share. I'm in the Houston area of Texas and we have 2 larger aquariums here but I'm unsure how to go about even asking them if there is something worth studying, or if there is a generic place I can send samples to. I asked my veterinarian and they only handle warm-blooded samples as she put it, but she was unable to find any resources in the area (at least publicly known) that would handle studying 'something' let alone looking for a specific pathogen.
Thanks in advance
 

Nemo&Friends

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I wonder if this disease has been observed in the wild too, or just in aquarium from hobbyist. I realize it might be difficult to observe in the wild, but divers or cameras may be able to spot strangely swimming fish . It is very puzzling that fish is ok when caught, ok at wholesale dealer, ok in LFS, ok when bought and just get sick a few days after reaching the hobbyist. It does not look as if it is contagious. Did the way they catch the fish or transport and hold them change in anyway? Hopefully researchers will find an explanation and a cure soon.
 

Jubei2006

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Veterinarian here. Small animal, not fish specific. People keep talking about cyanide, and I'm with Jay on that one, dont think it's the case here. I do however wonder if it's an environmental toxin (runoff) sensitivity or people using chemicals other than cyanide to trap fish. Organophosphates would come to mind for me. They would stun fish as they are a neurotoxin. The fish could potentially recover. And guess the long term effect? Neurologic disorder, more specifically demyelination of nerve sheaths. Which nerves have the thickest in animals? Peripheral nerves. And organophasphates are still pretty common pesticides around the globe. Maybe wrasses are more susceptible to effects? Maybe it's incidental.

Another thought would be a parasite. There are plently in the animal kingdom that cause neurologic disease, and several are protozoas that we know are difficult to kill. It's gonna be tough and expensive to figure it out. We have a fish vet enthusiasts forum on Facebook, and I know a few people have sent fish in for pathology to Idexx, so that may another source. I think it's around 200 to 250 for pathology through them.
 
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Ascartes

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I wonder if this disease has been observed in the wild too, or just in aquarium from hobbyist. I realize it might be difficult to observe in the wild, but divers or cameras may be able to spot strangely swimming fish . It is very puzzling that fish is ok when caught, ok at wholesale dealer, ok in LFS, ok when bought and just get sick a few days after reaching the hobbyist. It does not look as if it is contagious. Did the way they catch the fish or transport and hold them change in anyway? Hopefully researchers will find an explanation and a cure soon.
Well after mine passed I called the LFS that I got it from (who had 3 others when I got mine, all in separate systems) and all of them have died. I realize they all come from the same distributor in that case, but that lends me to a bad batch (so to speak) for whatever is causing this. I understand at least in my case with the Naoko, they habitate in shallow waters so there shouldn't be any decompression issues here.
The timeframe is short enough here that I'd lend it to something used in harvesting/transport as its not like I had it for 3 weeks then it showed signs, it was dead within 5 days of the LFS receiving the fish from their supplier.
 

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thanks for your reply. Unless these wrasse start dying in the ocean, IMO it is either the way they collect them, or the way they transport them. It does not seem to have affected other species than the wrasse though. Hopefully Biota can start breeding them.
 

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recently back in the hobby here, but back from 2008-2010 I had quite a few wrasse and leopards.
here are the ones that succumbed to these symptoms and length of time in display after being quarantined
1 ornate -1 year
3 rhomboids -all died of these symptoms after about a month together, no other fish
1 lineatus -within days
1 solarensis -2 years
1 flame wrasse- lasted a few months

I was told back then it was most likely cyanide but the time it took to kill them varied. I quarantined with formalin and followed w praziquantel
 
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mcwhng

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Apologies in advance for not having pictures, but I recently bought a Naoko wrasse (from LFS) that didn't make it.
In case it is relevant, the fish did receive a pre-QT bath in Ruby Reef Rally, as I have done with all fish acquisitions recently
First few days I had it, was eating fine and no noticeable issues.
It slowly went from keeping the body mostly straight ----------- to developing a droop, like a ------_ that developed into ----___, the keyboard makes it look a little more dramatic but it was a clear droop (almost to a full 90 degree shift from head to tail by the last day it was alive) still ate, still woke and rested apparently normal, until 1 morning was dead on its side in the QT.
Fully cycled, no ammonia readings, no medications. No droppings in post-mortem FW dip, and no signs of any other ailments.
My rhomboid was normal for 4+wks in qt, ate like a champ, and just about ready to go in the display tank when it developed the tail bend, then unbalanced swimming, spinning, and then no ability to control itself, all in 36hrs. Ended up stuck to side of seachem tidal filter inlet tube. Very helpless feeling. She had colored up beautifully and grew 1/4-1/2 inch during that time, but now gone. I contacted the vendor about this wrasse issue and they supposedly informed head fish keeper, but I’ve heard nothing since from them. QT also fully cycled, seachem ammonia badge safe/no ammonia, dejardini tang and long nosed hawk as tank mates both healthy and now in display no problems, nitrates in qt 10 per Hanna checker, weekly 50% water change with newly mixed saltwater, dkh8 Hanna checker, 1.025 sg, ph 8.2, 77 F temp. No copper used during the qt- all fish showed no signs or symptoms of any disease after initial freshwater dip.
 
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Jay Hemdal

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Thanks Jay,
Is there some further steps we can take in helping this along? I understand you have some documents we can't share. I'm in the Houston area of Texas and we have 2 larger aquariums here but I'm unsure how to go about even asking them if there is something worth studying, or if there is a generic place I can send samples to. I asked my veterinarian and they only handle warm-blooded samples as she put it, but she was unable to find any resources in the area (at least publicly known) that would handle studying 'something' let alone looking for a specific pathogen.
Thanks in advance
I think the vets working on this have a good process - they will want to develop a research paper from it, thus they have to wait to share any info. I'm pretty pessimistic about finding a treatment for this though.....

Jay
 
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Jay Hemdal

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I wonder if this disease has been observed in the wild too, or just in aquarium from hobbyist. I realize it might be difficult to observe in the wild, but divers or cameras may be able to spot strangely swimming fish . It is very puzzling that fish is ok when caught, ok at wholesale dealer, ok in LFS, ok when bought and just get sick a few days after reaching the hobbyist. It does not look as if it is contagious. Did the way they catch the fish or transport and hold them change in anyway? Hopefully researchers will find an explanation and a cure soon.
In the wild, the fish would be eaten by predators right away, so it would be unlikely to see sick fish. What happens in aquariums is fish are packed close together, so one fish can sicken hundreds.

Jay
 
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Jay Hemdal

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Veterinarian here. Small animal, not fish specific. People keep talking about cyanide, and I'm with Jay on that one, dont think it's the case here. I do however wonder if it's an environmental toxin (runoff) sensitivity or people using chemicals other than cyanide to trap fish. Organophosphates would come to mind for me. They would stun fish as they are a neurotoxin. The fish could potentially recover. And guess the long term effect? Neurologic disorder, more specifically demyelination of nerve sheaths. Which nerves have the thickest in animals? Peripheral nerves. And organophasphates are still pretty common pesticides around the globe. Maybe wrasses are more susceptible to effects? Maybe it's incidental.

Another thought would be a parasite. There are plently in the animal kingdom that cause neurologic disease, and several are protozoas that we know are difficult to kill. It's gonna be tough and expensive to figure it out. We have a fish vet enthusiasts forum on Facebook, and I know a few people have sent fish in for pathology to Idexx, so that may another source. I think it's around 200 to 250 for pathology through them.
I don't think this is from run-off. Many of these wrasses are deep water fish, found far from any inshore areas. If it was an environmental toxin, I would suspect other species would show with problems.

Personally, I think it is a virus. We already have the case of the Banggai cardinalfish - previously a very hardy species until they began getting collected and held in close quarters. Now, they are as weak as kittens and have a horrendous mortality rate. Here is a write-up I did on that issue:

Banggai Cardinalfish Iridovirus (BCIR)
This fish was originally discovered in 1933 but then lost to science for about 60 years, when the Banggai cardinalfish (Pterapogon kauderni) was “rediscovered” and began entering the tropical fish trade. Aquarists noted how hardy the species was and that they were very easy to reproduce in captivity. A decade later, the price for wild-caught Banggai cardinalfish had decreased fivefold, but the animals were now considered very delicate, with high losses seen in newly acquired wild fish.

What was the cause of this sudden change in the apparent health of this species in captivity? Poor handling, collection with cyanide (unlikely), and bacterial disease were all suggested as possible reasons for this change. A researcher then published a study showing that the presence of an iridovirus was associated with episodes of mass mortality in newly imported cardinalfish (Weber et al. 2009). A similar virus has since been isolated from the common batfish, Platax orbicularis (Sriwanayos et al. 2013), but a corresponding high mortality in aquarium fish of that species has not been noted, perhaps because many fewer batfish are imported for the pet trade than the ever-popular Banggai cardinalfish.

Since there is no cure for this viral disease, captive-raised fish that were never exposed to wild stock, or fish that have subsequently developed immunity by surviving an infection would be the best choices for aquarists. Avoid inexpensive wild-caught Banggai Cardinalfish. Not only do they have a poor survival record, but they’re also being collected at such a high rate that wild populations are locally threatened with extinction.

Jay
 

Jubei2006

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Viral would make sense to me as well, it's just a little curious that people are having mentioning families of wrasses affected not just the genus. The iridovirus mentioned, has it been found in the rest of the cardinalfish family or just the Bangaii (quick reaearch only showed the Bangaii not the rest of the family)?

Was also thinking about people using chemicals to capture fish (ie replacing cyanide with another short term neurotoxin/anesthetic/etc. To capture the fish, cause issues in the labridae family).
 
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Jay Hemdal

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Viral would make sense to me as well, it's just a little curious that people are having mentioning families of wrasses affected not just the genus. The iridovirus mentioned, has it been found in the rest of the cardinalfish family or just the Bangaii (quick reaearch only showed the Bangaii not the rest of the family)?

Was also thinking about people using chemicals to capture fish (ie replacing cyanide with another short term neurotoxin/anesthetic/etc. To capture the fish, cause issues in the labridae family).

Viral diseases vary in their specificity - you're correct, the Banggai virus seems to only affect that species. However, the opposite of that is Lymphocystis that affects hundreds of species in many different families.

That said - it is really easy to implicate an unseen virus in mystery death cases. Likewise cyanide may catch the blame for fish loss where it wasn't the cause. I once saw a post where a person implicated cyanide collection as cause of death for a fish they had for over a year (grin). I also heard people blame it on fish death from fish collected in Florida, which doesn't happen.

Myxosporidians cause "whirling disease" in trout and salmon - so that is another suspect.

Jay
 

Jubei2006

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Viral diseases vary in their specificity - you're correct, the Banggai virus seems to only affect that species. However, the opposite of that is Lymphocystis that affects hundreds of species in many different families.

That said - it is really easy to implicate an unseen virus in mystery death cases. Likewise cyanide may catch the blame for fish loss where it wasn't the cause. I once saw a post where a person implicated cyanide collection as cause of death for a fish they had for over a year (grin). I also heard people blame it on fish death from fish collected in Florida, which doesn't happen.

Myxosporidians cause "whirling disease" in tout and salmon - so that is another suspect.

Jay
So when we work with the pathology labs, we usually also try to help them narrow the search for what may have caused the disease. Hopefully threads like this can give some insight for others to help ask what to look for in specific areas of the fish. This will help the labs out if we as a hobby get to that point. Ie) viral inclusions in neurons, protozoal cysts in tissues, etc. Toxins will be difficult to find unless you know exactly what toxin you're looking for. Or hopefully the pathologic changes in tissues are specific enough to make it easier to identify.

I have a interest in fish medicine, but unfortunately where I live, we dont have a market for it and I'd be unable to make a living at it. Nobody's going to bring me their 50 to 200 dollar wrasse for a 250 or more dollar necropsy. Heck they wait for their cats and dogs to be half dead before they bring them in and getting them to pay for a necropsy when unexplained death occurs is near impossible. And these are the pets they say are their children. So the only fish med I get to do is to try and increase interest in ocean life by using my display at my veterinary clinic to open simple subjects such as water quality and quarantine which obviously gets screwed up regularly. But if any of the wrasses I have end up like this.....I'll send them in for histopath and post the report.

By the way, cant thank you enough for the support and knowledge you continously share with all of us here. It's and honor to get to converse with you!
 
AS

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