For a koi, life can be full of peril. The fish in an outdoor pond are subject to not only birds of prey and raccoons but to things you often can’t see that live in your water and infect your fish. Fortunately there is a great deal of information on koi diseases and an equal amount of treatments but the most important thing is being informed on those diseases. The more you know about koi maladies the better you can treat them. Below are listed a good deal of the more common koi diseases and some of their treatments.
One of the most common diseases found in Koi is Ich. It is a protozoan that begins its growth in the pond and later attaches to the gills of the Koi as it matures. Ich can kill smaller Koi, especially in crowded ponds.
Tropical fish specialists frequently deal with Ich. It can, however, also infect cold water fish. An Ich infection shows up as a group of white spots dotted all over the body of the fish. They must attach to the fish within 48 hours of hatching or they will die. Once they attach themselves to fish, they dig into the skin and feed on the fish’s tissue. After feeding on the fish for approximately three weeks, they detach themselves and move to the bottom of the pond to reproduce. The Ich hatch out of cysts at the bottom of the pond and use small hair-like tentacles called cilia to swim about. The pond will need repeated treatments so each new batch of Ich are killed before attaching themselves to fish.
Fish that have dropsy often show signs of swelling or lifting of the scales. Their eyes will frequently bulge. If you ever notice this, don’t hesitate to separate the infected fish from the others. Paying careful attention to your fish in order to notice these symptoms as early as possible means that your fish stand a better chance of surviving. Dropsy is curable, even though common understanding of it suggests otherwise. It can be cured with one of many of the anti-bacterial products found in pet stores today.
Anchor worm, also known as Lernea is a crustacean parasite that attaches to, and digs into the skin of fish. The female Lernea attaches to fish while males do not. The worm feeds on the fish, damaging its tissue. This leads to a bacterial and/or fungal infection on the fish. Another crustacean parasite, Argulus also attaches itself to fish and causes damage to tissue. Argulus have eight legs and rounded bodies. They also have to big suckers which are used to attach to the fish. Their appearance leads to their nickname, fish lice. These parasites can cause considerable irritation to fish and can lead to bacterial infections. They can be removed using tweezers or other small pincers. After removal, rub some Neosporin on the infected area. Use Dimilin or Dylox to treat the pond.
Some causes of fish infections, such as fungal hyphae or spores, require a microscope to see them. Mild or moderate infections can be treated and possibly cured if they are caught early. Fungus can be removed by gently using a cotton swab while the infected area must be treated with an antibiotic or antimicrobial cream immediately afterwards. These types of fungal infections are not typically contagious and usually only a single Koi becomes infected.
Fungal infections in fish almost always begin externally and start through a break in the outer skin layer of the fish. Affected Koi usually display fluffy or cotton-like growths on their skin. These growths may also exhibit a green tinge because of algae growth on the fungus. There may also be raised white, brown, yellow or green irregular bumps seen on the fish’s fins. Most infections can be successfully treated if caught early so it is important to visually inspect your fish frequently.
Your Koi fish may have Lymphocystis, also known as Carp Pox if it has any buff discoloration on its skin. Another sign of Lymphocystis is shiny, greasy looking skin. This condition occurs when the water temperature in the fish’s environment has changed. Lymphocystis and Epistylis look alike, but they each respond differently when salt is added to the fish’s environment. Carefully watch the fish for a week after adding salt. If you still notice the symptoms mentioned above, then the fish is suffering from Epistylis. Epistylis is an uncommon parasitic infection that is dangerous and can cause other diseases in your Koi. It is usually caused by poor management of the water, resulting in dirty water infected with parasites. If you do not regularly change the water in the pond, it can easily become a host to these parasites. Epistylis looks like a fungus and thrives in ulcers and wounds on Koi fish. You can identify an infected fish if you see white colored tufts in and around ulcers and wounds on the fish’s skin. Change the water in the pond and add salt to combat these parasites.
Fish normally eat less during the winter and by eating less, fish tend to lose a bit of weight. This normal change sometimes masks Skinny disease. The disease is caused by a bacterial infection that causes the fish to have a sucked-in gill appearance. Its head will often appear much bigger than the rest of its body. Adding extra food to the fish’s diet can usually clear up this disease. However, sometimes this doesn’t help and if the bacterial infection persists, adding erythromycin to the fish’s food normally clears the infection up quickly.
Another disease Koi sometimes suffer is called Columnaris, which is sometimes also called Cotton Wool Disease. White threads in the fish’s mouth and a dry skin appearance are the main characteristics of this disease. Sometimes the color of the Koi becomes darker and white sores can appear on its skin. It is not always easy however to determine if the fish has the fungus in its gills. However, if the Koi stays near the surface of the pond, gulping for air, it is a good indication that the fungus is, in fact, in the gills. The Koi can also develop a soggy belly and a slimy coating over its skin. You can put potassium permanganate in the water to help clear up the condition. Additionally, injecting antibiotics and treating the wound directly will help care for the disease. You should separate the infected Koi from the population and treat the water so the other fish do not become infected.
Several severe Koi fish diseases can be caused by the Gyrodactylus ectoparasite, which can live up to 15 days. Use Formalin 37%, Organophosphates, Droncie, Potassium and salt to treat this condition. Koi owners typically begin treatment with salt and move on to using the other compounds if salt doesn’t work. Don’t add all these compounds at once. Try salt first and use the others if salt doesn’t clear up the infection.
Oodinium parasites can also cause disease in Koi. The disease caused is sometimes called Velvet Disease because it resembles a velvety golden dust, which covers the fish. Adding salt to the pond’s water does not normally clear up Velvet Disease. The best option is to add Formalin to the water as this has been shown to be most effective.
If you notice that your Koi fish has white spots on its body, it may have a common disease known by the same name, White Spot. The disease can quickly multiply and spread to the other fish in your pond. White Spot is caused by a protozoan parasite that initially appears like little white grains of salt on your Koi. If left untreated, the parasite can cause other bacterial infections in your fish and can even be fatal to Koi. If you notice the parasite on your fish and notice that it later falls off, the pond’s infection is not cleared up. The parasite can reproduce at the bottom of your pond.
Ulcers on the skin of your fish result from bacterial infections that form on scales, causing them to become red. The infection causes holes, or ulcers on the exterior of the fish and will eventually result in loss of scales if left untreated. These ulcers are most often caused by poor quality of the water in the pond. Maintain a healthy, clean pond and treat ulcers with an antibacterial to prevent any further occurrences.
One of the most common fungal infections found in Koi fish comes from the Saprolegnia fungus. Spores from the fungus can grow on any part of the fish, including its gills. The fungus first attacks the fish by germinating on dead tissue. The fungus has thread-like hyphae that release a substance that breaks down the tissue. As the fungal infection grows, these juices begin breaking down and destroying living tissue.
One of the easiest protozoan parasites to see under a microscope, and therefore confirm your fish is infected, is Trichodina. An infection with this parasite can be detected by a gray-white opaque appearance on the body of infected Koi. Trichodina is a warm water parasite and can survive in the water for a considerable amount of time without a host. Visually, they are perfectly round with hundreds of little hooks that look like cilia. It rotates continuously as it moves through mucus, causing damage to the Koi’s tissue. This parasite attacks both the skin and gills of your Koi. Infected fish also often show symptoms such as flashing, rubbing and lethargy. Treat this disease with potassium permanganate. If left untreated, the amount of damage to the fish’s gills can be significant.
Another parasite sometimes infecting Koi is the gill maggot. The parasite most often attacks the Koi’s gills and has a maggot-like egg sac appearance. It is a relatively uncommon parasite sometimes found in Koi ponds but when present, can cause Koi quite a bit of irritation. You will notice flicking and flashing and the gills become less efficient at absorbing oxygen. The most obvious sign of infection is seeing a Koi gasping for air at the surface of the pond.
Clearly there are quite a few little “beasties” out there that can make life miserable for your koi however there are a good deal more treatments these days as opposed to say 100 years ago. Also, because the treatments are more potent these days there is a good chance that you can deal with a disease or parasite quite rapidly and not lose your prize breeding stock -or even just your favorite koi.
Another aspect of koi care that can cause a lot of issues is overfeeding. This simple oversight can actually lead to a host of other problems and is easily avoidable. Over feeding your koi can result in obese fish as well as lower water quality due to uneaten food and excess waste. In the end you end up with overweight fish that are essentially less fit to combat disease swimming in lower quality water -this is all easily avoidable with the proper feeding amounts on a predictable schedule.
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