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Aquarium White Spot Disease ICH – Ichthyophthirius Multifiliis

Aquarium White Spot Disease ICH – Ichthyophthirius Multifiliis

Ich (Ichthyophthiriasis) is caused by a parasite (ciliate), which most often is located in the skin and gills of the infected fish. The parasite is visible to the naked eye all over the body of the fish.
This is probably the most common disease found in aquarium fish, but it is relatively easy to cure if we intervene in time.
If you want to cure fish effectively, it is worth to at least a bit get to know the life cycle of the parasite that causes white spot disease, thanks to what we will start working at the right time, which will ensure that we will get rid of the “intruder” for good.


The parasite feeds on the cells of the fish, as a result of which it grows and reaches a diameter of about 0.5 – 1 mm. (visible in the form of whitish spots). Treatment should be taken no later than 3 days after the onset of a characteristic rash.
Then, the parasite is released from the fish, transforming into a developmental cyst and sinks to the bottom of the tank, or sticks to plants, decorations, the glass of the aquarium, or floats in water. The cyst parasite is immune to medication.
Inside the cyst, progeny parasites grow, that is zoospores, which leave it and begin to look for another host (fish). The ability to attack the body takes from 10 hours to 3 days. If at that time a zoospore does not find a new fish, it falls down and dies. At this stage (zoospore) the parasite is the most sensitive to chemotherapeutics used in the fight against this disease.
The rate of parasite development depends on the physico-chemical conditions prevailing in the tank, including temperature.
– temperature: 25 * C, the life cycle lasts 6 days – 5 days the parasite is on the fish, after which from 0.5 to 1 day it occurs as a zoospore;
– temperature: 30 * C, the life cycle is inhibited, but the parasite DOESN’T DIE!
– temperature: 32-34 * C, the parasite dies even within a few hours (some strains may survive)


There is a theory that the embryos of the parasite are still present in our tanks, but only a decrease in immunity of the fish causes the disease to attack our wards. For this reason, it is essential to care for good conditions in aquariums and to quarantine newly acquired fish, plants and snails (preferably about 20 days) – see the article “Quarantine”
According to the principle of “Prevention is better than cure”, it is worth to avoid factors that cause the decrease in the immunity of our fish, thus exposing them to the parasite attack.
In turn, even the best carried out treatment may turn out to be futile if the fish continue to be in an environment that is unsuitable for them or still under the influence of factors conducive to getting ill.


– rapid falls in temperature (eg when transporting fish at low temperatures outside)
– ph fluctuations
– reduced oxygen concentration in water
– stress associated with transport
– stress associated with surplus of males
– excessive fish density
– poor quality of food
– terrible sanitary conditions prevailing in the aquarium
– the use of live food
How to recognize white spot disease?


The first phase (preceding the rash):
– fish have folded fins, rub against objects, do not eat food
– they often hold still making swaying movements, they are shy and apathetic
– fish reside at heat sources (eg heater) and under a stream of water (eg a filter outlet), often also have a rapid breathing and therefore they are close to the surface of the water
Phase two (final period of invasion):
– on the body of the fish there appear milky white spots of the size of 0.2 – 1 mm, sometimes there are so many of them that they look like a granulated topping
It is worth remembering that not every “spot” on the body of a fish must mean ich.
Single, few, white spots (usually at the ends of fins, tail or fish mouth) can be caused by, for example, sporozoans, in turn very numerous spots, looking like a powder (usually smaller and visible only at the right angle) can be a sign of disease called oodinosis .


IN A SEPARATE TANK (recommended, see also the article “Quarantine”): we do not place soil or plants, we aerate water very well (and of course we filter it), we do not feed fish. The general tank should be left without fish for about 10 days, without aeration (the parasite is sensitive to lack of oxygen), with efficient filtration. We treat all fish, including those that have no symptoms yet. We give medicines according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Temperature of treatment:
Treatment tank – minimum 28-29 * C, and preferably 33 * C
General tank – we raise the temperature to 33-35 * C (attention to plants and crustaceans – they may not survive this warmth!), You can add non-iodised table salt (1 tablespoon / 10L of water) and methylene blue (according to manufacturer’s recommendations)
1 method: the treatment should last about 2-3 weeks, we give the drugs according to the manufacturer’s instructions (see below), temperature: 28-29 * C
2 method (risky – fish and plants may not survive): we raise the temperature to 32-33 * C, add aquarium salt 1g / 1L of water, the parasite dies within a few hours.
After the end of treatment, we exchange 50% of the water in the aquarium, you can use activated carbon to remove the remaining medicine. When using salt for treatment, every day we exchange 20% of water for a few days to remove the salt from the aquarium.
– FMC ZOOLEK, CMF (MFC) TROPICAL: composed of malachite green, methylene blue and formalin – the most popular drugs for ich, however, it is necessary to take into account the accumulation of defects of these three components (see note *)
– Costapur SERA (there may be a problem with accessibility): it consists mainly of malachite green
– Ichtiosan TROPICAL: consists mainly of malachite green
– Methylene blue ZOOLEK
– kitchen salt (non-iodised!) – 1 tablespoon for 10 liters of water
(after the basic treatment the disease has returned or the treatment is not effective)
Treatment in a separate tank:
DAY 1: we give 10-15% more of the preparation than the manufacturer recommends, we maintain a temperature of 33 * C for at least 10 hours. (if the fish withstand it, we maintain it for the whole period of treatment), we strongly aerate water!
DAY 2: gradually reduce the temperature to 27-28 * C
DAY 3: we exchange 50-70% of water and add 50% of the dose
DAY 4: we repeat the activities from day 1 (we give 10-15% more of the preparation than the manufacturer recommends, we maintain a temperature of 33 * C for at least 10 hours)
DAY 5: break
DAY 6: we repeat the activities from the 3rd day (we exchange 50-70% of water and add 50% of the dose)
DAY 7: break
8th DAY: we repeat the activities from day 1 (we give 10-15% more of the preparation than the manufacturer recommends, we maintain the temperature of 33 * C for at least 10 hours)
9TH DAY: break
10 – 15 DAY: Every day we exchange 20% of water
DAY 16: water is filtered through activated carbon, a UV lamp can be used, temperature 28-29 * C for the next 7 days
DAY 23: we move the fish to the general aquarium
(* note – methylene blue: disadvantages – kills nitrifying bacteria, absorbed by plants (dose must be topped up), malachite green: defects – carcinogenic, may cause infertility of fish, absorbed by plants, formalin: high toxicity)


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