The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

Browsing Posts tagged Cupramine

Another day

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So it’s been what, 2 full weeks now?  Today, the maroons spent more of their day apart.  This evening, I did another water change, shook off all the live rock (and thus rearranged it a bit), dosed with Fish Protector in the makeup water and Reef Plus shortly thereafter.

The female Maroon, as cited earlier, still had spots of  Cryptocaryon (ICH) on her into the afternoon, but by night they’ve disappeared.  I should mention that besides the obvious visual cues that it was ICH and not Velvet, there has not been heavy breathing nor a total loss of appetite, both classic symptoms of Marine Velvet (Amyloodinium) even when it’s not outwardly visible.

I “polled” the advisers and got early responses from Joe, Christine and Matthew C. about my ongoing ICH problem.  I’m over simplifying their responses by a lot, but suffice it to say that if there were one word votes, it’d be 1 vote restore Hypo to 1.010 or even 1.009, and 2 votes for possible treatment with Cupramine (copper) to finally eradicate the problem.  Obviously, if this continues to be a recurring problem it will have to be dealt with.  I feel that the female Maroon has once again plateaued, albeit at a higher plateau than she was on before.

She has had less “spunk” today, not having tons of appetite by any stretch.  Unless food was moving, either in the current or alive (as in Live Adult Brine Shrimp) she didn’t see interested.  Honestly, I had my first suspicions that she might be blind now.  Hard to say.  Blindness can be temporary or permanent in clownfish and can be attributed to a variety of factors.  There are times she seems blind, but then other times where she most certainly does not.  So throw that on the pile as another of the never-ending list of problems that have plagued this female PNG Maroon since her arrival.  Oh, that, and someone took a chunk out of her left pectoral fin today.  The list of suspects is short.  VERY SHORT.  And happens to be covered in abberant white markings.

Behaviorally, the clowns were not as cuddly with each other today.  They spent most of their time about 3-4″ apart.  When I turned out the lights this evening, the female left her cave.  The Lighting Maroon quivered for her numerous times, but she moved off to a different part of the tank.  I didn’t stay to watch too much more, but suffice to to say that both fish seem to be roaming the tank more.  This, combined with the “mystery bite” on the female’s fin might suggest that the “pair bond” isn’t all that, but then I look at my other clowns that don’t have anemone homes and they tend to rove around quite a bit.  They aren’t always at each other’s side, but it’s very rare that they’re at opposite ends of the tank.

I think it’s really important to impress upon everyone how truly individual and dynamic a marine fish can be.  They most certainly do have personalities and subtle behavioral cues.  It pays to make yourself aware of those subtle changes in behavior.  I certainly believe that some folks might read way too much into it, anthropomorphizing their fish (and going off the deep end in the process).  However, if you can avoid that pitfall and be more objective about your fish, you may realize they will often give you clues when things aren’t quite right.  I.e. I’m paying more close attention to the Female Maroon today and tomorrow in light of what seems to be a decreased interest in food and behavior that may imply some blindness or at least vision trouble.  Hard to say where that’s stemming from, but it’s important to note general behavior every time you look as you’ll get tipped off when things may once again be going wrong.

Well, signing off for tonight, and hoping for a better tomorrow.  Power of positive thought seems to work folks, so please do keep sending prayers, well wishes,  good vibes and karma to the 20 gallon home of the PNG Ambassador and his wife ;)

The short story – yesterday the fish got fed a few times.  I’ve realized that most food blows by the female, so I’m now in the position of having to turn off the filtration so she eats.  This has the positive side that if I leave the water pump off for a bit, I could come back later and siphon off uneaten food (only the male is willing to eat food off the bottom glass).

Last night, they got another 5 gallon water change.  Today, I started off by feeding a couple times, and now at lunch, another 5 gallon water change with Fish Protector in the makup, and then the dose of Maracyn.  Also hitting the tank with the daily dose of Kent’s Vitamin C product.

The sad news is that the female, while she continues to eat, has another clear cut case of Cryptocaryon (ICH).  Nothing “serious” (as indicated by the fact that she’s still eating) but seriously, with almost 2 weeks of Hyposalinity and solid Formalin treatments, I should not be continuing to deal with ICH.  This may be a case where I have to “keep an eye on it”, maybe go for FW dips, or maybe wait it out for another week and then bring up the salinity and hit the tank with Cupramine.  In the meantime, so long as the fish continues to eat, things should go OK.  I’ve been soaking all their food with Seachem’s Garlic Guard, which is thought may help keep parasites out of the gills (key word there is THOUGHT, not “proven”).

In a nuthshell, the FW dip + Formalin did not really seem to go over well.  The Maroon Female is under the live rock, wedged in, breathing unhappily and rapidly.  Frankly though, I’ve seen MUCH WORSE LOOKING fish (see my posts about the Saddleback…of course, it did die within hours later).

What I’ve seen develop over the past few hours is slime coat and what looks to me like Velvet (Amyloodinium).  I’ve seen it before, many times over, as I found Amphiprion allardi particularly susceptible to it.   I know we had Brooklynella early on, then there were the Spots of Cryptocaryon, and now this.  Sure, I’m not 100% sure it is, but seriously…I dip the fish with Formalin and FW, and within 2 hours I have a nice dusting of tiny white spots on the fish?  What else could I be seeing?

Well, I’m making plans to abandon their tank potentially.  Can’t risk a Cupramine + Formalin interaction.  I took a fallow larval tank down, filled it about 50% with water from my Onyx Perc’s reef, 50% new tapwater.  It tested out around 1.014 (my percentages aren’t exact).  I’m letting it just sit there.  Depending on how the female Maroon looks in the morning (if she is even still alive) I may follow through with my earlier outlined plans and treat her with Cupramine.  Honestly, this is somewhat ridiculous to be dealing with still.

My plans for the Lighting Maroon?  I have 3 options.  #1.  Leave him in the 20 gallon QT tank since he’s doing OK there despite the Female’s ongoing troubles.  #2.  Ignore that there is another clearly sick fish in the tank, and treat him as if he’s been through a short QT and come out OK.  That means #3a – placing him in a net breeder in my SPS tank with a RBTA (Red Bubble Tip Anemone) or relocating our spawning pair of Black Ocellaris and giving the Lightning Maroon a dedicated 6 gallon reef with a massive RBTA and a bunch of mushrooms.  Both tanks are very solid.  Both have good and bad things associated with them.

Frankly, I’m frustrated, because the 20 L was solid, had been broken in for months and was going to be an ideal home for the pair.  I’ve ended up ravaging it with Hyposalinity and Formalin, and even after all that I’m stuck with sick fish?  If I have to abandon this tank and leave it fallow, I’m technically without a good dedicated home for a Maroon pair at the moment.  That’s a setback.  “GRR”

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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?

Taking a break from work..wow…already burned out and again, OT is in the future tonight!  But, I can take 10 minutes away to update you all on the status of the Maroons…

This morning, I was dealt another disheartening turn of events.  I went down before starting my workday and took a look.  I think the pictures speak for themselves.

Yup…that look s like Marine Ich, Cryptocaryon irritans.   Not a serious infestation, but I thought I saw this on her yesterday and sure enough, there it is again this morning.  Left scratching my head, and can only assume this was picked up before dropping the tank to hyposaline conditions.  Formalin is also supposed to have an impact, so come on…really?  I have to deal with ICH too?  I haven’t seen any outward signs of Brooklynella now since I first saw it and treated for it.  Still, I will follow the regime and do a final Formalin dip tomorrow.  You don’t stop medication the moment you “feel better” afterall.  You have to stick to protocols.  I was worried I was dealing with Amyloodinium, but so far, other than loss of appetite, I haven’t seen the symptoms I normally associate with it’s onset (i.e. rapid breathing).  Still, I have already been researching and planning for a possible switch from Formalin regiments to Cupramine (Seachem’s copper product, which I’ve had good results with in the past).

Well, I’ve been keeping the lights on for shorter periods of time and keeping the tank lit more with ambient light.  I’ve gone downstairs to feed a couple times today.

There IS positive news today.  The Lightning Maroon is back to EATING.  Formula 1 small Pellets and Spirulina Flakes, both by Ocean Nutrition.  And eating “well” too.  Swimming around “his” section of the tank a lot more.  This is a huge step forward.  Wish I could say the female is eating too, but still, no real response.

So overall, we have a negative and a positive canceling each other out for the time being.  At some point this evening, in between all the overtime for work, I’m going to do another water change to remove uneaten food.

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