ICH is a 4-letter word

18 Dec

Ich, the parasite. Evidenced by little white spots that spread like mad. Feared by aquarists of all abilities. You can go for years and years and never see Ich. Then, buy one fish and a nightmare begins.

I thought about re-living my errors and stupidity regarding Ich, but let’s just say I have made errors and been very stupid.

A healthy Marble Angel. It never occurred to me to take photos of my fish when they had Ich!

Let me get right to the two major suggestions to prevent Ich from ruining our fishkeeping fun.

Number one:  Set up a quarantine tank. Keep new fish in the tank for a month. Simple, yes, but most casual aquarium keepers can’t do this. You may have only one tank.

Number two: You see Ich. What to do?

I am not going to pour in Malachite Green and Formalin or Methylene Blue or Rid-Ich or Nox-Ich or whatever they call it. I am going to raise the temperature of my tank to at least 86 F degrees. I will go as high as 90 degrees but no higher. Importantly, I will crank up the aeration to the infected tank. (If you are using outside power filters drop the water level an inch or two until the water is splashing in, this will help oxygenate it.)

I am going to leave it there, and some fish will suffer and some may die but the Ich will definitely die.

I will leave the temperature high for 10 days . This will kill Ich at all stages of it’s life cycle.

Other things I can do are to make some water changes to improve water quality. Make sure you have the new water heated up close to the 86F of the tank.

In some cases, I would add aquarium salt to the tank. If my infected fish are Platies or Cichlids I would not hesitate to add salt. Start with a teaspoon per 5 gallons of water. Wait a few hours and add another teaspoon per 5 gallons.  If there are Neons and other sensitive or expensive fish be cautious about the salt. Be prepared to make a 25% water change if you see that it stresses the fish too much.

If you have live plants in the tank they may begin to fall apart at high temperatures. If they do, take them out, throw them away. Don’t put them in another tank. The Ich can go along for the ride. Same with nets and anything else you put into the tank.

Honestly, good luck to you and your fish if they get Ich. Fight it, don’t give up. You might lose some fish but you will rebuild. Don’t quit keeping fish! The rewards are too great.


4 Responses to “ICH is a 4-letter word”

  1. DJ December 18, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    I really appreciated this article. I have always treated ich with meds but that stops now. The article made sense to me. Turn up the temp… parasite cannot handle the temp… parasite dies… the fish gets better.

    You may lose a few, but that can happen at anytime for any reason on any given day (just like the Packers could lose to the Chiefs today… but they wont.)

    So here is my question… Why does ich keep coming back? I can quarantine, I can medicate, I bet I can even raise the temp for ten days and at some point ich will raise its parasitic little head (if it has a head) and kill one of my favorite little flounders. I would like ich to really die, not just go dormant or whatever it seems to do. I have had tanks disease free for years and I perform a routine water change then… HELLO ICH! Why does this happen?

    I will add this comment for your article… Pay attention to your fish. Look them over daily. When you see Paulie the Platy swimming funny and scratching itself on the rocks, he is not doing the mating dance of the Red Wag Platy… he is diseased and you need to act fast. Missing ich for one day can prove the difference between losing zero fish or a whole fish tank.

    I need to go check my fish then watch my Chiefs get a overdose of Matthews and Rodgers.

    • fishtanx2011 December 18, 2011 at 11:13 am #

      Ich really does not have a dormant stage but I understand what you are saying. I can only surmise that it might still be in our tanks sometimes, but in a low population. That seems unlikely though and I think it more commonly appears when a new fish is added, then let’s say a few weeks later comes the water change and then the Ich appears. It seems that the water change brought the Ich “back” but it was the new fish from weeks before. Just a possiblity!
      I have read that some strains of Ich are able to survive in the higher temperatures but I still would try it before medicating.

  2. Anonymous March 22, 2014 at 4:04 am #

    Excellent advice! Great suggestions for avoiding commercial Ich medicines, especially malachite green that stuff is just a pure toxin. Salt is your savior. Although I agree that the best method for ensuring Ich is prevented from returning is changing out those aquarium decorations, but for those with that beloved plant or rock formation they can be sterilized with salt. The standard mixture for a sterilizing soak is 6 tablespoons per quart. Don’t bother with bleach or other sterilizing products. To learn more check out TakeaChillPillYo’s post on this question:
    (Be careful with live plants as salt can damage or kill them with prolonged exposure.)
    Also, if you happen to loose all your fish let it sit with the high temperature preferably above 86 degrees (as recommended in this article) for about a week and the parasite will die with no host. The high temperature forces the Ich into an accelerated life-cycle giving it less time to find a host before it dies. To beginners, I know some of this sounds crazy but this really is the best method for treating Ich. Don’t be discouraged if you have lost fish to this treatment process before. Stick with it. All those commercial Parasite medicines are no better and will most likely end up poisoning your fish.

    • fishtanx2011 March 23, 2014 at 6:33 pm #

      Your comments are outstanding and this has made me think of the Ich problem a bit more deeply. First, I am thinking of the difficulty in treating Ich when someone owns only one tank. I don’t have any answer for that, other than “Get another tank!” Or at least a 5 gallon bucket and an extra heater. And the second thing I am thinking about is that some heaters these days don’t have an adjustable temperature control. They are set to hold the tank at about 75 F, and that’s it. I had thought this was a good idea and might help to avoid the problem of failing heaters (especially heaters that stick ON and cook the fish), but now I think it is necessary to own AT LEAST one heater that is adjustable and can be used to heat the water to 84-86F.

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