The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

Browsing Posts tagged mouth rot

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.

It’s 3:15 AM, Thursday, May 3rd, I really should be in bed, but I know folks are wanting updates ;)

Monday, April 30th, 2012

By Monday, it seemed that nothing was progressing, and towards the evening, the slightly more “bold” Lightning Maroon personality had returned.  I did a 5 gallon water change and once again dosed the tank with both Maracyn and Maracyn II, both the marine / saltwater formulations.

It is interesting to note that I had a loss by this point – an Acropora frag that had been browned out for months, and had a little bit of cyanobacteria growing on it, well, that coral kicked the bucket during this treatment.  IRONICALLY, it almost appears as if the Pink Birdsnest and Sour Apple Birdsnest are showing more intense coloration than ever…could be the water changes, could be something in the medication…hard to say at the moment.  But I really want to hit home the efficacy of these two anti-bacterial products and their very apparent relative safety in reef tanks.  Hobbyists are always scrambling for reef-safe medications, and in this case, I think you have very safe anti-bacterial agents to treat suspected bacterial infections in a reef tank.  IF you must.

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Officially a crazy day in the Pederson household.  By this point I was probably telling those who inquired privately that I was slowly gaining optimism that my course of treatment had been effective.  Overall, I barely looked at the tank though other than to treat it.

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012.

Another day of simply being very busy and stretched thin…our first summer-like day in Duluth had me spending most of my freetime in the afternoon trying to do some much needed outdoor work in the wind of opportunity that presented itself.  Plus I’ve been busy with my work on the Banggai Rescue project.  I did take a quick peak at the Lightning Maroon and dare I say it, it does appear that the infected areas of the maxillary are possibly even healing?  It could quite well turn out that the fish may not lose the maxillary as I had feared, and quite possibly, it may not even be scarred when it’s all said and done?

Before I knew it, 2:00 AM had already arrived and I had neglected to treat the Lightning Maroon.  So I did a 5 gallon water change, and treated the tank.  According to the manufacturer’s recommended treatment regimes, I’ve gone one extra day with the Maracyn and have completed the Maracyn II treatment course as well, albeit slightly late there at the by about 12 hours!

So what’s next?

The biggest question at the moment is whether I continue to treat with the antibiotics.  Instructions on the packaging say to treat for 5 days even if symptoms disappear.  But what if maybe they haven’t?  Do I keep going?  I may make some calls, ask around, or just by myself personal comfort time by going yet one more day.  Afterall, there are diseases in humans that we have to treat with 30-day long antibiotic courses – I absolutely do not want to stop prematurely.

I obviously owe you all pictures.  That will be on my to-do list for tomorrow when I wake up.

The long-term question is how do I prevent this from recurring.  The concern is that while I perhaps got lucky and made the right decisions this first time around, if it comes back, it may be harder to treat (due to built up resistance).  Obviously these fish already receive the most attention in the house most days, and are always the first to receive care and maintenance.  And yet I still had a problem with a bacterial infection.

Most of the time, we think of bacterial infections as being caused by poor water quality.  But the reality there is that I maintain close to sps-level water parameters, have a good skimmer, etc.  So what could be going on here?

One of the things that had occurred to me is my use of very low-level vodka dosing.  We know that carbon-dosing elevates bacterial populations and in doing so, helps “bind up” our nitrates in the actual bacterial mass. But could the carbon-dosing also cause elevated levels of pathogenic bacteria, and have indirectly caused this to happen?  Obviously I’ve stopped vodka dosing during the entire treatment because I don’t have any effective skimmer at the moment (treatment with these antibiotics causes the skimmer to go truly haywire..I’m just letting it all spill back into the tank).  My vodka dosing was at extremly low levels (1 drop per day) but still, maybe that was too much.

Of course, the above is entirely conjecture, just a hypothesis at best.  The other possible things to look at IS the introduction of the tile.  I have legitimate concerns that the Lightning Maroon perhaps damaged its mouth when trying to evict the tile from its territory.  If in fact the tile was indirectly related, I am hoping that its ongoing presence has simply become accepted, and thus, will no longer cause violent objections to its presence in their territory.

And then there’s another thing we must consider.  As with all wild caught fish, we have no clue how old they are.  In the case of a Clownfish, I recall reading scientific documentation of a wild-caught Percula being 32 years of age.  Most probably live far less, but still, if you live your life as a male, and your female lives a long time too, well, you stay small and live a long time.  It is quite possible that our Lighting Maroon could be 5, 10, 20 years old already.  There is, quite sadly, the possibility that the Lighting Maroon *could* already be old, and thus, could be slowly starting to slide downhill.  Let’s hope it never comes to that, yet it is inevitable that sooner or later, the Lightning Maroon IS going to die. Realistically, odds are more likely that the Lightning Maroon was perhaps on the younger side of things, but then again, you don’t really know.  When she does finally pass on, I’ve already committed to contributing her to scientific research.

So that’s where things stand.  Please keep sending the well-wishes, as I am not going to make George W. Bush’s mistake and declare “mission accomplished” just yet.

 

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.

Today was just a crazy day.  A week in the making, I owe a bit of thanks to Jonica and her husband Scott (rest of her name withheld for privacy).  They provided the impetus for a day long road trip from Duluth to the Twin Cities region to pick up another massive female Maroon Clownfish.  This one happens to be a Gold Stripe Maroon (Sumatran form).  She’s pretty darn big, although the “Labrador” female from Frank & Mary has at least another 2 inches on her!  Thanks for this great donation to the cause.  She’ll have a good home here!

As you may know, the *plan* for whatever big female I could find was to place her on the other side of the eggcrate with the “Morse Code” Maroon in the hopes of applying social pressure to test the sexuality of the Morse Code maroon, and hopefully keep it a male if it still could be a Male.

Let me say now that the Morse Code Maroon continues to decline despite being hit with both Maracyn and Maracyn Two in combination.  So I’ve now thrown three antibiotics at this problem with no resolution.  It’s a slow progressing infection, but frankly, I hate to see fish suffer for so long.  Here’s where things looked tonight when I got home.

Now, I must say that I’m toying with swabbing that with Hydrogen Peroxide.  At this point, what else can I really do?!

Meanwhile, there is no way, and arguably no point, to introduce the new female Gold Stripe Maroon on the other side of the divider.  The Morse Code is lethargic to the point where social pressure isn’t going to do a darn thing for it.  There’s no positive upside at the moment to risking the GSM, so instead, she was placed into one of the QT Tanks with one of the smallest 3 PNG Maroons.  Submission was instantaneous on the part of the little Maroon, so it is safe to say that at minimum, this one small PNG Maroon will remain male until called upon for service!

IF by some crazy chance this pair happened to spawn, I may opt to rear the babies solely for practice, but all of them would be humanely euthanized.  This may sound very cruel, but the reality is that such offspring are possible “hybrids” (there has been talk in the past that the Gold Stripe Maroon could be reclassified as a different species).  Regardless, they would be a mixing of color variants / races, which for all intents and purposes is something fish breeders should strive to avoid.  Afterall, I could hypothesize that the resultant offspring could turn out like either parent, or more likely a muddled version of a GSM.  And the reality is they wouldn’t be discernible by the average hobbyist or even most breeders.  In other words, there is NO upside to releasing such a fish into the hobby.  So yes, they would be put down.  But at least I would get some valuable experience rearing Premnas larvae.  Long term though, this temporary pairing will be split up, and each fish ultimately placed with an appropriate mate.

Meanwhile, I finally found the time to do a bit of eggcrate and zip tie fabrication.  The Lightning Maroon has been given a larger, more spacious home with a better view and the ability to better interact with the Labrador Maroon.  If they couldn’t see each other before, now they can.  The new eggcrate cage is pretty substantial.  I’ve heard stories, I think one told to me by Carl Kmiec, of clownfish being able to fertilize a spawn even when separated by eggcrate, even several inches away.  Could that happen in this situation?  Who knows?!

New larger "egg crate" breeder net!

Hinged top opens to provide easy access. Used the frame from an old breeder net to provide easy hangers.

The Lightning Maroon Clownfish chilling in his deflated bubble tip anemones.

One more top down view of the Lightning Maroon chlling in its RBTA!

That’s going to be it for tonight!  Catch you tomorrow!

So as it stands, the Morse Code Maroon Clown, the largest one that was shipped, got Maracyn SW last night after a 50% water change.  That seems to have had no affect.  So tonight, lacking guidance and having a bit of desperation based on the ever-declining health of this fish, I doubled down and added in Maracyn II SW.  Mardel’s medications often suggest using combinations, but as it turns out, reading the details, there is never a discussion of using these two particular medications together.  I’m running out of options on this fish, and it appears the fish is running out of time.

The second largest PNG Maroon shipped has shown signs of a mild Brooklynella infection.  I hit the tank housing him with Formalin on Wed. night, and now again Friday night.  The nice thing is that after the first treatment, his appetite returned.

The remaining 3, all the smallest, have shown no symptoms of disease.  They all feed well and behave normally.  The same goes for the smaller PNG Saddlebacks that I was also shipped this time around.  I believe these observations lend further anecdotal evidence to the notion that if you’re going to buy wild caught clownfish, smaller, younger fish tend to suffer less in transit and prove more resilient.  And frankly, wanting smaller clowns is probably a better way to go when talking about wild caught fish.  Afterall, the juvenile clownfish harvested from the reef is not a large breeder, producing the future generations.  So when it comes to sustainability, it makes sense to pursue juveniles for a myriad of reasons.

The Lightning Maroon, the star of our show, remains awesome as always.

A Morse Code Update

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OK, seriously though, the rest of the post will be in plain English ;)

I’ve discussed the problems facing the “Morse Code” Maroon with Christine Williams and Boomer.  Both often make a reference of Edward Noga.  As you know, I’ve been treating the Morse Code’s mouth rot with Kanamycin.  From Christine, the dosage of Kanamycin for fish is “50-100 mg/liter every 3 days for 3 treatments with a 50% WC before each”.

As you know, I’m using Kanamycin powder from National Fish Pharmacy (www.fishyfarmacy.com).  Both Christine and Boomer have suggested that the dosage on Kanamycin may be “low” compared to that recommended by Noga.  So I sat and “did the math”.

I’m using their consumer packaged Kanamycin, which is called “Kana Pro”.  From their website, the dosage is 1/4 teaspon per 20 gallons of water.  Treat every 24 hours with a 25% water change before each treatment.  Treat for 10 days.  For tuberculosis, use for up to 30 days.

The entire package of Kana Pro is 20 grams, and treats 640 gallons at their dosage rate.  Per their dosage, that works out to 1 gram (1000 mg) treating 32 gallons of water (121 Liters).  This works out to roughly 8.25 mg per L per day.  If I went to dosing every third day at that level, it amounts to roughly 25 mg per L.  This is basically half of Noga’s minimum dosage.  Of course, I simply also need to mention that other experts give dosages lower than Noga, i.e. more in the range of 20 mg/L to 50 mg/L according to the sources that Boomer cited, but Boomer was quick to add that often times, the dosage for a medication in saltwater can be as much as twice that in freshwater.  That could easily account for a disparity between Noga and the other references, specifically if Noga is talking marine and the others were talking fresh!

So far, at best I was only at the absolute bare minimum therapeutic level for Kanamycin based on the dosage.  But then things took another bizzare turn.  Boomer noticed it, credit where credit is due.  National Fish Pharmacy sells both Kana-Pro (hobbyist packaged product) and bulk Kanamycin Sulfate powder.  20 Grams of Kana Pro sells for $14.  25 grams of bulk Kanamycin Sulfate sells for $35.  The net result – Kana Pro sells for about 50% of what the bulk product sells for.  WHY?!  Even more curious, the package of Kana Pro says right on it “Pure kanamycin sulfate powder – no inert ingredients added”.

While I have not found the time to contact National Fish Pharmacy to ask about this very peculiar discrepency, it is certainly suggestive that the hobbyist-packaged Kana Pro cannot be the same thing as the Kanamycin Sulfate that our published experts are referring to when they talk about dosages.  At best, it may be that the bulk Kanamycin Sulfate is a higher GRADE and thus more expensive.  At worst, the Kana Pro could very well be a diluted form, perhaps mandated as such by the FDA for “home use” (this is purported to be a FDA-Approved product).  In the worse case scenario, could it be that the “Kana Pro” is diluted by 50% or more (would clearly justify costing half as much!)?  The real implication, when you follow it through, is that if Kana Pro is 50% or less of the active ingredient, then the labeled dosage might not be just “half” of Noga’s minimum dosage, but 25% or lower of the minimum suggested dosage by Noga.

And we wonder why medicating fish is a “complicated” issue!  Well, after 3 doses following the instructions, I had seen no results.  Once Christine, Boomer and I had these conversations, I took it upon myself to immediately DOUBLE the volume of dosage of Kana Pro I was using.  Based on all the information I had at hand, it seemed to be a safe and likely necessary step.

On Tuesday, I took another step – I swabbed the fish.  The plan was to send a sample to Christine for culturing / identification.  Obviously, if I we can figure out what exactly is going on, we have a better chance to treat it.  If nothing else, we may be able to put a real label on these photos and say “here’s a known case of X infecting a Maroon Clownfish”.  Of course, I missed the post office, so the package went out Wed and should arrive Friday.  Obviously, answers will not be immediate.

It is now Thursday night, and for the past 3 nights I’ve been using the doubled dose of Kana Pro.  The verdict? Let the pictures tell you:

It is pretty clear to me that Kanamycin, even at the doubled dosage, is having NO affect on this infection.  My plan now has been to abandon this (as I’ve used almost an entire package with no results now).  Around 8:00 PM I placed a large back of fresh carbon in the filter.  I’ll followup with a larger partial water change as well, and probably by midnight, I’ll be using a different medication.  Looking at what I have on hand, and what has more often succeeded than failed, it will probably be Maracyn SW (Erythromycin).  I believe I also have Maracyn Two SW (Monocycline) running around.  I believe I can even tag-team these two medications by using them together, hitting both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria respectively.  Given that Kanamycin treats gram-negative bacteria primarily, the use of Monocycline with Erythromycin may be unnecessary, but at this point, what’s a guy to do?

…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.

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