The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

Browsing Posts in Medicating / Treatment

I am really starting to think that these chronic bacterial issues stem from breeding activity.  Last week, things were good, I saw a little pre-spawn activity and now once again, come Friday the 13th, there’s a white spot on the Lightning Maroon’s upper lip. By Saturday, it was already well infected, and now, come Sunday, it’s no better, and the mate has a cloudy eye.

Dr. Kizer had set me up with a prescription for Baytril®, or Enrofloxacin.  It was presecribed in a liquid form (presumably the injectable form) to be mixed into a gel food for a 30 day treatment via medication laced food.  I selected the Repashy line of Gel Foods which recently came on the scene, making great inroads into the hobbyist world and garnering strong positive feedback.  I purchased the food from my friend Ted Judy via TedsFishroom.com – I picked the community mix, but Ted also threw in a free bag of the “Spawn and Grow” formulation.  It’s a good thing he did, because most of the marine fish here now refuse the Community formulation, but they like the high-fat, high-calorie spawn and grow.  After some experimenting with mixing times and quantities, I got the mix down as 3 tablespoons of water in my microwave for 1 minute.  Then, mix in one tablespoon of the dry Spawn & Grow powder mix.  Stirring it for one minute, that was just shy of the time it would take where the gel would first really harden up.  It was at that point that I placed the liquid Baytril into the mix, stirred like crazy, hoped it got mixed in well, and then put it in the fridge to set.  Once set, I popped it in the freezer, later cut it into 30 equal portions, and was now set with daily dosages for the Lightning Maroon’s tank.  Here’s how the process all goes:

Getting started...

3 tablespoons of water in the microwave for about a minute, until it boils.

1 tablespoon of dry Repashy Superfood poweder...

...and in it goes!

Mix it well.

Once gelled up, it pops right out and can be frozen, cut up, etc.

You may be wondering about the dosage; in short, Dr. Kizer prescribed the quantity of medication she estimated it would take for three fish of the size conveyed for 30 days; the three fish being the Butterflyfish, and the two clownfish.  Now, I only have the two clowns in the tank…so could I be “overmedicating”?  Thankfully probably not, if anything I still need to worry about whether they get enough.  Why?  Because these maroons have always been rather shy, reluctant feeders.  The food almost has to come in front of them to get eaten, especially if it’s something they’re not terribly fond of.  So, realistically, if the Lightning Maroon consumes 1/3 of the food I put in the tank per day, hopefully she is getting the level of medication she needs.

I initiated the medicated Repashy gel foods yesterday, 7-14-2012, and will have to continue this for the next 30 days.  So far, I have seen no positive improvements, but I am desperately fighting the urge to augment or change treatment plans at this point in time.

At this point in time, I’m looking at long term fundamental changes.  I may possibly move the fish out of the tank for a while, or I may fundamentally change the way their tank is set up.  One of my biggest thoughts is that while I love how well SPS and LPS have done in this tank, it may be time to scrap the “Reef” tank notion.  Obviously, it is doing me no favors despite keeping me on my toes in the water quality department.  I am seriously considering taking down the rockwork, doing everything I can to clean off the back wall, and then setting back up with a couple large Green Bubble Tip Anemones.  I am guessing here that the fact that this pair has basically decided to live in a “cave” with jagged rocks and tiny calcium worm tubes all over the place is just making these fish accident prone, particularly as they go about trying to clean off the back wall for their eggs.  Imagine rubbing your face on sandpaper…because that’s how it probably must be to them.  So it’s between swapping them into BTAs, or putting them in a sterilized, breeding type setup with only a clay flowerpot to call home.  I am truly torn here.  But something has to stop this chronic bacterial problem I keep having to deal with, and we’re running out of possible causes.

I believe I shot these Sunday AM.

 

It is now Monday AM, and honestly, things are improving.  The appetite of the Lightning Maroon remains strong, which I’ve used to ensure that it continues to feed on the Dr. G’s antibacterial formula.  I should preface this by saying that the Lightning Maroon has always been a timid feeder, so food generally has to flow right by its face / into its territory for it to feed.  So I’m definitely not following the Dr. G. feeding protocol (as much as they can eat in one minute, every other day).

In talking with the man behind Dr. G’s feeds, the feeds are set up to roughly deliver a “minimum effective dose”.  In the case of the anti-parasite Dr. G. formulation (which is laced with Chloroquin Posphate), you can quadruple the feeding regime (twice per day vs. once every other day) and have no ill-effects on the fish (although the Dr. doesn’t recommend that).  Knowing how most every antibiotic is normally delivered, it honestly doesn’t make sense to dose every-other day via feed, so I’m going to feed the food once per day to maintain antibiotic levels.  It’s worth mentioning that the active ingredients in the Dr. G formula are Kanamycin and Metronidozole.

All in all, this means that I have no less than 4 antibiotics running around.  I’ve been talking with two fish vets who I’ll refrain from naming for the time being.  One has of course, expressed concern over the “shotgun” approach, understandably so.  For me, I’m thinking that the repeat of the Maracyn & Maracyn II are probably of little efficacy, but they were what I had on hand to immediately address the problem.  Still, I am more likely to credit the Dr. G’s as the moment, if only because positive progress only started being made once it was introduced to the regime starting on Saturday evening.  Still, it could be the other medications.

The main goal here is twofold – #1. effectively cure this latest round of garbage.  #2. figure out WHY it’s happening soas to prevent it.  As of Monday AM, the eye looks better (less white stuff), so maybe we will get through this latest bout again.  But I’m fully wondering what the heck is causing the fish to break down repeatedly.  Mechanical damage? Food?

Or could we even be looking at an old-age, immuno-compromized fish?  Afterall, they DON’T live forever, they are NOT immortal.  Could it simply be that the Lightning Maroon is an older fish, nearing it’s time, and all my drastic measures are simply staving off the inevitable?  I hope not.

Despite all this, the male is cleaning the tile like crazy.

 

I promised photos, and I took them.  I ended up not doing any subsequent antibiotic treatments, so I basically ran one day longer with the Maracyn SW than called for, and Maracyn II went the full course.  I didn’t have a very cooperative photograph subject, but these photos of the Lightning Maroon were take on Thurdsay, May 3rd, 2012.

Lightning Maroon Clownfish

Lightning Maroon Clownfish

You can see the difference in the right upper maxilary…certainly scarred at this point, but not the raging infection.  And the appetite returned.  Plus, on Friday, the Lightning Maroon saw fit to go on a rampage of the sandbed, moving Goniopora and other corals around that had been left alone for months.

Friday, April 27, 2012.

I’ll keep this short and bittersweet. In the last 24 hours the Lightning Maroon has developed a pretty rapid spreading case of what appears to be mouth rot. You may recall a similar situation occurring with the Morse-Code Maroon, and that did not end well.

The biggest question is WTF – or more appropriately, WHY?! Did I introduce a pathogen from the Onyx Percula tank? It’s possible, but that group of fish has been disease free for who knows how long, and would qualify to be every bit as QT’d as the Lightning Maroon. PLUS, the Four Eye Butterflyfish that they reside with was taken from the Onyx Perc’s tank originally. So odds are that there was nothing new introduced.

Does it have something to do with the eggs? Could be. Could be that eating fungused eggs exposed the fish to elevated bacterial / fungal levels which in turn has led to infection. Or it could be the tile surface is somehow abrading the lips as they clean, and again opening a pathway to infection.

Or could it be something more sinister? If I’m blunt, perhaps the pop-eye I saw earlier on was not in fact a “bruise”, cauesed by mechanical damage, but was in fact an early warning sign for infection. If I really read some of the symptoms listed out, it actually sounds like a disease called Ichthyophonus hoferi, which is an internal fungal infection, with the exception being that the Lightning Maroon is not exhibiting any of the erratic behavioral symptoms.

However, this disease does most closely match the symptoms of classic mouth-rot, which is treatable with Erythromycin (one of the rarer ones). In fact, you can pick up a package of Maracyn SW and pretty much it deals with all of these symptoms. I keep it on hand, and I’ve found it to be very reef-safe, so without hesitation, I removed the carbon and dosed the tank today with the first dose of Maracyn SW. As of this evening, I have seen no improvement, and in fact, it does appear that the Lightning Maroon lost it’s appetite tonight. This is NOT GOOD.

I am toying with the notion of removing the egg tile. I’m looking at the Aiptasia in their vicinity and wondering if I need to eradicate those as well (haven’t caused any problems before, so why would they now…but maybe I still should). I am thinking of hitting both the Gram Positive AND Gram Negatives by including Maracyn II SW (Maracyn hits Gram Positive infections). I’m thinking about moving the fish into a well established QT tank. The options are endless, but it’s a situation like this where I hate being the fish vet, because the long-standing hobbyist in me has not seen a tremendous success rate in treating these types of infections. Of course, in the last 7 years, there has been only one other fish to have this issue…and that was another PNG Maroon. What are the odds?

All fish will die, that’s a given fact. But damnit, I will be really bummed if this is how the story of the Lightning Maroon comes to pass. And yeah, I’m really going WTF…this is the type of disease that really just should never happen in a clean, well maintained system. WTF?!

Saturday, April 28th

I half expected to wake up to a dead Lightning Maroon, but it wasn’t. It’s appetite was “not great”. So one of the big questions here is how to turn this around. I started medicating with Maracyn SW yesterday, but that only treats gram-positive bacterial infections. While the symptoms match up well with the symptoms of diseases Maracyn is supposed to treat, would it actually work?

And so, I embarked on a search for the companion product, Maracyn II SW. The active ingredient is Monocycline. I was 30 minutes into a 6 hour round trip to the only store in the Twin Cities that had the medication on hand (Ocean Devotion), when I got a call back from local reefer Frank Wotruba saying he had it on-hand. Shortly therafter, Jay Hansen also called saying he had it on hand. This is a great example of the benefits of being am actively participating member of a marine aquarium club.

I picked up a package of Maracyn II SW from Frank, and headed home. I had put in a call to Sentry AQ, the current manufacturers of Mardel aquarium medications, as I wanted to confirm that I could use Maracyn SW in conjunction with Maracyn II SW. The woman who I spoke with was kind, if not helpful, as the fish guy was out to lunch. I never did get a call back despite leaving my information, but later I found an acceptable answer on the website:

“Yes, Mardel Maracyn can be used in conjunction with almost all Mardel fish medications. The only exception would be Maracyn Plus. (We do not recommend using another antibiotic with Maracyn Plus.)”

This means that the two can be conjoined, and so, without delay, I added in the first dosage of Maracyn II for marine fish to the Lightning Maroon’s tank.  I think we’re looking at a pretty strong case to be made that both these anti-biotics are completely reef safe…although your water will glow yellow with the blue lighting.

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Once again I woke up expecting to find a dead Lightning Maroon. The spread of the mouth rot seems to have stopped, but there is definitely necrotic tissue breakdown happening. It is possible that even if I save the fish, it will loose at minimum the upper right maxillary. Thankfully that’s not a problem for a fish; they actually use maxillary clips in young salmonids to help with strain and year class identification in hatchery fish. Still, outwardly, things do not look any BETTER. Yes, I have contemplated surgery.

Knowing that Maracyn II SW treats gram negative bacteria, and knowing that will more likely impact biological filtration, I did a 10 gallon water change around noon.  The Onyx Perc eggs hatched overnight, and the fish overall are ignoring the tile.  I did use some Tropic Marin ElimAptasia to knock back the larger anemones…while the fish might be protected, I wonder if the infected area is getting stung by the Aiptasia and screwing up the healing process.  After this work, I dosed with both Maracyn SW and Maracyn II SW. So this is day 3 for Erythromycin, and day 2 for Monocycline.  And yes, looking back at the Morse Code Maroon now, I know I switched to this combination of medications after Kanamycin failed to give me any results.  If I am dealing with an internal fungal infection, particular the type that can be introduced through the feeding of raw fish (I have no clue what foods, if any that I have, contain raw fish), there is little I can do as far as my reading suggests.  Still, I may have to switch here and go to a hospital tank if what I’m doing at this point fails to work.  Yes, I am thinking of plan B now.

I truly have no clue how this will all turn out, and I am beyond frustrated. That said, I’m also completely confident that I’m doing the best I can with the materials I have, so there’s no burden of guilt here. Solely the stress of fighting off what could be the end of a 2 year effort to breed this magnificent fish.

Short update, I got on the Morse Code Maroon this morning and swabbed the area with Hydrogen Peroxide.  I am guessing this fish will likely be dead in the next 24 hours.  Ordinarily, a fish in this condition would be euthanized.  Warning, the picture is pretty darn graphic.  The fish’s entire upper maxillary has been rotted through, leaving two pieces hanging.  I would be truly amazed if this fish were able to turn around,, but without finding an antibiotic regiment that is affective, this fish is going to be another loss.

Sad to see this one going down this path, and really ticked that I found the problem early and addressed it early and it has still progressed unabated.

N0te – the yellow tint in the water is from the Maracyn / Maracyn Two.

…is that life has a way of giving you a nice smack in the face, aka a “reality check”.  The old phrase “don’t count your [clownfish] before they hatch”  seems to apply here.

I alluded to it at the end of my last post.  Yes, the “Morse Code” Maroon is having issues…it showed signs almost immediately and 24 hours in I made the decision to move it into another empty tank and begin treatment.  Not having the benefit of a laboratory, nor the luxury of a vet, I was forced to make a rapid guess and hope I was right.  Time this weekend has been nonexistent (a visit to see my best friend who lives in DC, then a car was hit on the street, and a family member was put under and had surgery today, doing well thank you) but I’ve at least been staying on feeding and treatment regimes.  Here’s where the Morse Code Maroon went…

So what exactly is wrong with the Morse Code Maroon?  I’m not 100% sure, but I did notice what looked like “rawness” on the mouth when the fish was released.  The pictures from that evening don’t really show it.  24 hours in, the mouth had turned gray and was showing signs of erosion, and so, the fish was moved.  Here’s what I was looking at.

For the moment, I’ll just use the generic term “Mouth Rot”, which really describes only a symptom, something that could be caused by a myriad of possible vectors.  As I stated earlier, not having a lot of time to diagnose and collaborate on this one, I went with Kanamycin, which I had on hand from the “lost shipment” when I was trying to switch antibiotics on the original female PNG Maroon.  As an “shotgun approach” antibiotic, it was the recommendation of at least a couple of the project advisors earlier on.  I figured, why not?  Christine Williams and Boomer both definitely preferred it over my personal default, Erythromycin.  Seems that Kanamycin is not that easy to find, but this is the one I’m using, from FishyFarmacy.com.

Today, I have to say I’ve not seen any signs of improvement.  No, things appear to have gotten worse.  Let the pictures speak for themselves:

Add on stringy feces, decreased activity, and the possibility of Brooklynella showing up (can’t say yet) and this fish is arguably going downhill fast.  Tonight is the 4th of 5 scheduled doses of Kanamycin.  I’m going to do it, but if time permits over the next 24 hours I’m going to solicit for opinions and do the researching I can do.  Need to turn this fish around, FAST!  I have a feeling I’ll be switching medications tomorrow.

So, after last night’s update, I went downstairs and gave the fish a closer look and that’s when I saw something I really didn’t like. The female’s right eye was distended and had a big black splotch on it. There was not a spot of Cryptocaryon on her, which was the “moment” I had been waiting for to move her from the 20 long into her 10 gallon “recuperation” tank with a Red Bubble Tip Anemone that I got from Jim Grassinger. So, I did an abbreviated quick drip acclimation and moved her in. I called it a night.

This morning, well, it’s been chaotic around here. We were supposed to close on a new home on Friday and move this weekend. The seller screwed things up, so closing on Friday didn’t happen. I’ve been working all weekend in the hopes that I could trade the weekend workdays for days off next week (overall, I work for a very understanding and easy going guy who “gets it”. I cannot tell you how lucky and appreciative I am for that). Well, today my wonderful inlaws came over and helped move most everything into 3 trucks and a 17′ UHaul. The fish will all get moved later this week.

I say all this, because it explains why I’ve not been paying closer attention to things. I.e. not noticing that the Kanamycin, which should’ve been here Thursday, was still not here by Saturday. I know the Maracyn SW had not been working for the female’s eye troubles, but I’ve been stuck without any good options to treat it with up here in Duluth. There are NO pet stores open on Sunday in the Duluth region that carry ANY medications. In fact, there’s really only one pet store in the area that does, and they didn’t have Kanamycin. Yes, there are potentially other medications I could try in the interim, so it is my fault for waiting for the Kanamycin to arrive and not having a plan B already in place.

Well, after ignoring my fish most of the day, I went down to check in on the female. It appears to me that her right eye has now ruptured. There’s no coming back from that…this fish will be blind in that eye if that eye even remains. This is a great disappointment, ESPECIALLY because circumstances out of my control have now prevented me from giving her a treatment that could have prevented this. I must admit it, I’m a snob when it comes to broodstock. I want them to be pristine. Not missing an eye.

Of course, really at this point all I can do is hope that the move to a different, well established tank, and the anemone, can help the fish fight off whatever infection has been setting in. If the Kanamycin shows up, I’ll be ready to dose it for sure, and maybe it’ll help. But, it may not. And this fish could end up losing the left eye too.

If the left eye goes, there’s really no use for the fish. We could talk about the ethical and moral merits of continuing to try to keep the fish going, but I’ll say it now, it’ll be time to discuss euthanasia options for this fish. A fish that’s totally blind will have an incredibly hard time living, let alone mating with anything. In the wild, this fish would’ve been dead weeks ago already.

She’s been a fighter. If she can pull through and keep the left eye good I’ll certainly keep her around. The loss of the right eye is admittedly a setback, a really disappointing blow. I did take some pictures for all of you to look at her in her new home this evening.

So, a bunch of clownfish porn this evening, because frankly, a blog is kinda boring if it’s just always text text text text text.

The female PNG Maroon is definitely doing better, yet still sick.  Still has cloudy eyes.  After I fed and shot video this evening, she got another water change with full strength saltwater, bringing the specific gravity up to 1.021 in the Hospital / QT Tank. As I’m still waiting on the Kanamycin (should show up tomorrow) I’ve opted to continue with the Erythromycin (Maracyn SW) as the cloudy eyes persist. I should say that the Fin Rot appears to have been fully treated and arrested with the treatments of Maracyn SW, and it’s interesting that the cloudy eyes developed during this second course of Maracyn SW.

The videos that follow are of some healthy clownfish eating.  Watch their behavior.  Watch how they turn, how they locate food.  Watch how far they’re willing to travel to get food and how far away it seems that they can identify food.  Compare these 3 videos of healthy clownfish to the last video, which is the PNG Maroon female.  What do you think?  Blind in the right eye?  I can’t speak about permanence, as it’s been documented that blindness can be temporary.  What I CAN say is that this fish seems much better over the last 48-72 hours at identifying food particles in the water column, which to me is suggestive that this fish was having vision problems before the cloudy eyes cropped up.

And finally, the PNG Maroon Female.

So, please post your comments – what do you think?

OK, officially I’m just frustrated.  I have to commend the Female PNG Maroon for fighting to live as it seems a never ending barrage of maladies hits her.  I know there’s still Crypotcaryon running around the tank, only seen it on her.  Now, it turns out that the “chunk” of her left pectoral fin that was presumed “bitten off” by the Lighting Maroon may not have been a bite at all.  Or if it was, it opened up the gateway to another new problem.

In either case, I’m now dealing with FIN ROT.  And this tends to progress FAST.  I’m surprised after just having run a 5 day treatment of Maracyn SW (an antibiotic) that this has now shown up.  Normally, I’d slam something like this with Maracyn SW (Erythromycin) as my first choice, but now…well…I’m hoping maybe I can find some Kanamycin at the local Petco (only fish store in town open after 6:30 PM…geeze).  I’m hoping for Kanamycin on two grounds, having yet to actually go look at what I *should* or *could* use.  #1.  Looks like whatever has hit was likely not something knocked out by Maracyn and #2.  Kanamycin is Christine’s default antibiotic.  Sounds like a good choice…probably should’ve thought to have some on hand.

Bouncing this off the advisers as well.  Remember, we just threw a UV on the tank too, which if course may have to be deactivated (it can affect medications).

Anyways, pix of the affliction:

PNG Maroon with Fin Rot

Finrot on the left pectoral of the Female PNG Maroon.

Left Flank of PNG Maroon Clownfish Female

Here's a shot of the left flank overall.

Fin Rot on a female Premnas biaculeatus

Another good left flank shot showing the pectoral disintegration.

PNG Lighting Maroon male and PNG Maroon Clownfish Female interacting.

They're still interacting.

Now, there is still the possibility that the Lighting Maroon is causing this damage…they do occasionally interact roughly.  But I’m at 95% Fin Rot as the diagnosis.  And it requires fast treament…I’ve seen similar disease competely disintegrate a fin in hours.

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So, in a situation like this, I think it is INACTION that generally “seals the deal” as it were.  Leave a fish that’s lost its desire to swim lying on the bottom wedged under the live rock and that fish will be somewhere, dead, by morning.  That’s my general prognosis.  Which is why inaction is not an option.  I’d rather kill the fish by trying to save it than sit back and just let it die.

Water Params in the QT Tank

Water tests came back normal…pH maybe slightly low at 8.0 but nothing alarming at all…all my reefs like to run at 8.0 most of the time.  Ammonia maybe a trace, but certainly below 0.25 ppm.  Nitrite and Nitrate undetectable.   SG 1.010 or every so slightly higher.  This, combined with the outwardly healthy and happy Lightning Maroon clownfish is an important indication that there aren’t environmental problems.

Can’t be the water…

So what is it then?  Tank has had low level Formalin treatments, and I’ve followed a strict regime of Formalin dips.  Tank has been at hyposaline conditions for several days, which may not outright affect a cure of any disease, but certainly should not hurt and likely has helped (I may have said it before…it could just as easily be that both fish would be dead were it NOT for hypo…we just don’t know).  We’ve seen signs of Brooklynella, but certainly not the rampant infestation that takes fish down quickly.  Likely I kept that at bay.  There has also been Cryptocaryon.  Nothing serious, certainly not to the levels where a fatality would result.

We have pretty good water parameters overall, so that’s not been a source of problems.  Even got a protein skimmer going and yes, the Seaclone is pulling out foam, even at 1.010.  So much for “not working” like some folks out there will tell you.  Yet still, in the last 24-48 hours I have noticed elevated repiration on the Maroon Clown, and this evening, a fish on the bottom, clearly stressed.  Honestly, without visual cues, the only thing that is really coming to mind is Amyloodinium, which I’ve seen before and can totally take a fish down fast.  Could it be that in a week alone I may have seen all three diseases on the female Maroon?

Making Educated Guesses

Well, anything is possible.  It could also be that the fish is now succumbing to starvation, secondary bacterial infections, organ failure, or even has just given up the will to live.  All of those are possible.

I have to operate under the following assumptions.

1. I could STILL be facing an infection with Brooklynella.

2. I could be facing an Amyloodinium problem now.

Since neither can be comfortably ruled out at the moment, I had to think this through carefully.

Medication options for Amyloodinium vs. Brooklynella

As I’ve alluded to prior, Amyloodinium may or may not be treatable with Formalin – the literature on the subject varies, and genuinely, it is a 50/50 split.  Brooklynella however, is universally cited as treatable with Formalin.  Conversely, the other generally accepted treatment for parasites like these is Copper.  I’m a fan of Cupramine.  Seachem’s Cupramine cannot be used with Formalin – it will create a toxic substance that would probably just kill everything.  Cupramine also may cause problems at hyposaline levels.  No details provided, it’s a “try it at your own risk”.  That said, if I was convinced I was dealing with Amyloodinium at this point, changing course to Cupramine would be a very necessary step, because Cupramine is highly effective against Amyloodinium in my experience, but only if applied early on.  The other problem, Copper does nothing for Brooklynella…at least 90% of sources tend to agree on that.

If I thought (or was convinced) it was Amyloodinium?

So for the benefit of argument, what would I do if I gambled and changed to Cupramine?  Well, the bottom line is any fish that’s going to be treated with Cupramine needs to be removed to another tank, because I can’t clear out the Formalin with any great level of certainty.  Not worth risking a toxic cocktail.  This also means possibly “rinsing” the fish as one person suggested in a comment thread.  I do concur…that would be a wise precaution, and wouldn’t be that difficult to accomplish.  The next thing to do would be to bring up the salinity, as the toxicity of Cupramine should decrease as that salinity goes up (a side note, we’ve also bantied about the use of an anemone as a therapeutic agent in the last 24 hours, which also would’ve required a rapid salinity change to accomplish).  Some of the advisers have suggested raising salinity could in fact be done rather quickly, but their frame of reference has been largely to compare to captive bred fish.  I did however, pick up  good literature-based clues on the subject.

The first clue on rapid salinity rises comes from Matt Wittenrich’s suggested course of action for treating Cryptocaryon on page 161 of his Breeder’s Guide.  The “jist” is that you drop SG to 1.015, and after two days, do a large water change (presumeably with full strength saltwater).  But that’s not really specific.    The more “detailed” clue comes from Joyce Wilkerson’s highly detailed protocol for Amyloodinium treatment on page 114 of her Clownfish Book.  Again, to give only the “jist” (please see the reference for full details), drop SG to 1.010/1.012.  Day 3, add copper and bring SG up to 1.018.  But, “Take a day or more to bring up the specific gravity”.  I’ve always worked under the assumption of no more than a 0.002 rise per day was adviseable, but this advise advoceates a rise of up to 0.008 in only 24 hours, 4X that of my assumption.  Since I’m a young guy who sometimes want’s more than only the solid, highly experienced sage advice of my elders, I realized that perhaps the real kicker is something sitting in the back of my mind.  Most of the bags in the Blue Zoo Aquatics shipment tested out at specific gravities around 1.019/1.020.  Yet  I pushed both a Cleaner Wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus) and a Harlequin Filefish (Oxymonacanthus longirostris) up to 1.025/1.026 in my reef on only a 1 hour drip.  That RATE would equate to 0.120 difference over 24 hours.  60X faster than my base rate, and 15 times faster than even Wilkerson’s literature suggested to do.  And I had NO PROBLEMS there.

Of course, the best example I can think of goes back to when I was 10 years old.  I was breeding mollies and had my first saltwater tank.  I would ROUTINELY net out my Sailfin Mollies and give them “excursions” in the saltwater tank for a day.  No acclimation of any kind, just dropping them in.  Now of course, I do not advocate this at all.  And healthy Mollies are not the same as distressed Clownfish.  But it’s just one more annecdotal experience that my preconceived notions might be ill-concieved or perhaps overly-cautious.  It is clear that fish can and do withstand far more rapid rises.

So, with all that said, if I get to a point at any time where I think I need to switch to a copper-treatment for this Female Maroon, the course of action is clear.  Rinse her with water from one of my broodstock reefs really quickly, and then move her to a 10 gallon tank that is set up with 5 gallons of diluted saltwater (probably from a broodstock tank).  Bring the salinity up from 1.010 to 1.018, while dosing with Cupramine.  That would be the way to affect a change.

However, I am not at that point yet, and I think that honestly, the time to switch would’ve been before the fish was trying to wedge itself under the live rock.

So what DID I DO?

One of the things routinely cited for treatment of both Amyloodinium AND Brooklynella is a Freshwater Dip.  The FW dip is said to knock off the parasites in the case of Amyloodinium, and for anyone who’s not familiar with Amyloodinium, it can kill a fish by completely coating the gills and you may never even see it on the fish’s skin (one of the main reasons I have suspicions I’m dealing with a case of Amyloodinium now – heavy respiration, stress, and yet no think mucus – generally I’ve only seen the actual cysts on a fish when it’s commonly past the point of no return because I left the fish in the reef too long).

Formalin dips have also been good so far.  Every time I did a dip, the fish always seemed “better”.  Dosing the tank with Formalin this last time appeared to make things “better” as well.  So I’m not about to just outright abandon this medication at this point.  Especially since if I am still dealing with Brooklynella, it is THE medication to use.  Amyloodnium?  The jury is out, but enough people suggest it that there must be some basis for it.

The decision was to combine treatments.  I admittedly have no basis for this other than the fish is now clearly on the decline and drastic steps are needed.  If it’s Amyloodinium and Formalin isn’t fixing it, perhaps the FW DIP will help alleviate the stress, clear up the gills, and buy me some tmie.  If Formalin IS doing the trick, why cut it out?  Admittedly, I have no clue if there’s a basis for this dual purpose dip.

I had thought about doing a FW DIP with Methelyne Blue (which helps deliver Oxygen during the dip and is a often recommended practice).  However, in the back of my head, I hadn’t researched it.  I didn’t know how MB and Formalin would interact, and didn’t want to inadvertently cause some other problem when a fish, dipped in MB, was returned to the main tank.  I have to research this more.  There are potential merits.

The net  result of my thinking was to use the dosage for a Formalin dip at 20 drops per gallon in a Freshwater dip to last anywhere from 5-15 minutes as tolerated (I think in the past I’ve gone even longer, but generally shorter FW dips are suggested).

Prepping the FW Dip

For anyone who’s never done a FW dip, it is not scary.   I don’t have RO DI here unless I buy it, so I had to use good ole tap water.  Matched the temperature coming out of the tap with the tank temp, and them measured out 1 gallon.  Dechlorinated it with Seachem’s Prime.  Then checked the pH..

First pH Test

First pH Test, QT tank sample on left, FW Dip water on right.

The results of this first test showed that the FW from the tap (right sample) was just slightly lower than the tank’s pH.  A very small dusting of Seachem’s Reef Buffer was added to the dip water, swirled and aerated for a minute.  I took another test.

Second pH Test, FW dip water on right.

They are now very close, close enough in my opinion, with the FW maybe ever so slightly elevated.  But you can barely tell at all.  Once the pH was matched, the FW dip was “good to go.

But, as I mentioned, I opted to combine FW with Formalin.  While I completed the requisite 3 dip treatment already, if I was continuing on an “every other day” Foramlin dip regime, today would’ve been the day.  So 20 drops of Formalin were added to the FW dip water.

The FW + Formalin Dip

Being aware of timing on a dip is critical.  Not freaking out is also critical.  So, first things first, get the female Maroon out of the tank and into the dip.

Stressed out Maroon Clown in a Freshwater Dip

Into the bucket she goes...

Stressed out Maroon Clownfish in FW Dip

She goes stiff as a board for a minute, all curled up...

Next, look at the time it is and SET AN ALARM for 10 minutes.

beat up old cell phone

Alarm SET!

And now observe the fish’s behavior.  No better way to convey this than video! This first video was maybe 3-4 minutes in.  This is basically how the fish has been acting in the main tank since I found it this evening.

Watch, this was around the 9 minute mark…you’ll hear the alarm go off towards the end.  Note how the fish makes a couple mad dashes in the bucket, and then just goes listless again.  This IS the erratic behavior I mentioned earlier.  The “mad dash” and then nothing.

Shortly after this vid, around 12 minutes, I felt the fish had “had enough” and returned it to the main tank.  It promptly dashed around the tank and wedged itself under live rock again.  But, when I left to come upstairs to document all of this, the fish was looking a tiny bit better, at least now sitting rightside up in the cave, clearly still very stressed.

EDIT – almost forgot – capped off the work with a 5 gallon water change and a full dosing of Kordon’s Fish Protector.  Dosed 5 drops of Formalin as well to make up for the removed water.

But What About the Lightning Maroon?

Yeah, this IS a blog about that awesome little fish, right?  Well, Edgar Diaz of AZ was the only one quick enough with the email trigger to shoot me any thoughts on my predicament this evening.  He made but one suggestion in response to my many questions.  To paraphrase, “Dip the female.  Not the male.  Female is replaceable.  Male isn’t”.

It’s also come to my attention that Jake Adam’s little April 1st prank on Reef Builders STILL has a lot of people thinking that this entire fish is a myth, a photoshop job (or rather several extremely good photoshop jobs).  Well, Jake has been all over me wanting dibs on the first HQ Video of the Lighting Maroon.  Well Jake, it ain’t HD, it ain’t HQ, and it ain’t on Reef Builders.  It’s a tease.  Just enough of a tease to let everyone in the world know that this fish isn’t fabricated (unless I am now the ultimate Adobe After Effects guru, at which point you should just all bow down before me…)

Wet your appetite Jake?

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