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Gill Flukes | Home Fish Aquarium Guide

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Gill Flukes

I have had a suspected outbreak of gill flukes in my 5 gallon tank that have claimed one of my fish. Here are some details about them and the treatment that I am giving the tank to try and help them recover.

Fist, the symptoms are clamped fins, red or inflamed gills, sitting at the top seeming to gasp for air or sitting at the bottom. Excess slime coat can be a symptom. Flashing in the early stages can be a symptom of gill flukes. Basically gill flukes may not be large enough to be visible, but can make your fish lethargic and reluctant to eat.

1-12-11 10pm

Suspecting possible gill fluke infestation and treating with half a tab of jungle labs parasite clear. All three fish have been behaving strangely. Low activity, low appetite. I initially though this was birthing behavior from snoopy and the other fish were mimicking. She gave birth on the night of 1/7/11 and 1/8/11 again. There was a lot of snoopy sitting on the bottom and then spastic movements. The other two fish were not eating and just hanging out with their noses in a corner at the top of the tank.

1-13-11 –

I’m wondering about swim bladder disease due to Mickey’s strange swimming. He struggles to dive and then floats rapidly back to the top. Swimming at a severe angle nose down/tail up. The behaviors seem to match gill flukes better though, possibly we have a bit of both going on? Snoopy died at the bottom of the tank.

update 1-14-11 10pm

The two surviving platys are still not looking great. After another day of observation I’m back to suspecting gill flukes. (The night before snoopy died my best guess was that there was some sort of parasite causing the lethargy and unusual behavior. That night I did a dosing with jungle laboratories parasite clear) Unfortunately it may be that this has been a problem since around the time of the first batch of fry (a week ago tonight.) The fish had changed behavior then and for several nights I assumed that the birthing behavior was why they were less active and hovering near the top of the tank. In retrospect it was a sign of distress that I could have acted on.

I did a 50% water change today and redosed with the parasite clear and plan to continue that every two days (maybe with a 25% change instead of 50% though.) for a short while. Hopefully they will start to recover and look healthier, but I’m afraid I may have let the situation go on too long. Mrs. Fish has had red gills since we brought her home. I initially thought that was just her coloration, right now I wonder. Here are the basic symtoms – hovering at the top of the tank or the bottom. Not eating (these little guys normally were all over the place looking for algae or whatever they could find.) Not much interaction (no male chasing female). Very little startling or reaction to movement outside the tank, but next to them. Some of the time spent hovering at the bottom. (With snoopy I assumed this was birthing behavior and it went on a second and third and fourth night…) Right now my theory is that the stress on the fish from the 0.25-0.5 ammonia/nitrites for a period of time degraded their immune systems enough that gill flukes have been able to take hold (possibly introduced from one of the new fish.)


More activity today. Not a lot, but some from mickey and mrs. fish.


Another 25% water change and dosing with parasite clear. I saw more activity from the fish and they indeed tried to eat a bit at what I put into the tank (algae flakes and smushed green peas.) Mrs. Fish looks to be in worse shape at the moment and swim bladder is a definite issue. She works hard to try to swim down and can’t make it all the way down. At one point I saw her listing to one side at a 45% angle as well. She is more active today though and took a few bites at the green peas.

Since the gill fluke supposedly lives for seven days and the eggs take 2-4 days to hatch and then are vulnerable as larvae. If they don’t find a host they die. I’m thinking that I will continue dosing on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. This all started on Wednesday and so going through Saturday would make about 10 days. So at this point we may be about halfway through the dosing for this.

Today Mickey is looking much better and more active.

At this point my biggest regret is not picking up on the symptoms earlier. Unfortunately it started around the same time as a birthing of a drop of fry and since this is the first time I’ve seen that behavior…. I didn’t recognize that there was something else going on.

Update 1-17-11

Things are continuing to look promising in the tank today. This is an off day for the treatment, we’ll have another water change and treatment tomorrow. Mickey has been eating and doesn’t have intestinal blockage. His activity level is still lower than normal, but he is making progress. I’ve seen a lot of browsing for food today and swimming around the tank at places other than the surface or along the gravel. I’m even starting to be concerned about him pestering Mrs. Fish before she get’s better. She looks about the same as yesterday, the listing seems to be less severe than yesterday. She has hung around the surface and I saw her nibbling and eating at algae on some plants last night which was promising. I still think she has a blockage which is causing the swim bladder issue.

I made another attempt at placing peas in the tank and neither really seemed to take me up on the offer. There was some spastic running around and hiding though when I took the cover off. I still plan on a Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday treatment before we’re out of the woods with this. I hope Mickey can leave Mrs. Fish alone enough for her to recover. I don’t like the thought of adding another fish to our sick tank at the moment, but that might be better than moving Mickey out to another tank before he’s had the full treatment.

–update 1-19-11

Did the water change and next treatment last night. In spite of the swim bladder issue – Mrs. Fish swam down to hide in the cave during the water change. I took this as a good sign. They’ve both eaten a bit (tubifex worms this time). I tried peas but there were no takers on the peas. They don’t seem to have figured out that those could be food yet…. Today Mickey is swimming around almost like normal. Mrs. Fish is making deeper forays towards the bottom of the tank than she was, but is still struggling with the swim bladder issue. It does seem somewhat better than it was though. Both fish are pooping though (albeit small amounts from Mrs. Fish from what I’ve seen thus far….) I’m hoping that will eventually help Mrs. Fish to get over the swim bladder issue.

At this point i still plan on a Thursday/Saturday treatment of the tank I’m still on the fence about introducing another fish before the treatments are over. On the one hand, Mickey is pestering Mrs. Fish from time to time, on the other hand do we really want a new fish to go into what is basically a hospital tank at the moment. (I don’t know, it may be the equivalent of quarantine in a sense. Given that we’ll be moving them all up to a larger tank gradually.)

Update 1-20-11

Still plan on a water change & treatment tonight and another one Saturday. Today will probably be the day to clean the glass as we have a collection of cyanobacteria on the glass right now. I’m not going for a full scrubbing of everything, just the glass so we can see well. Today I’ve seen both Mrs. Fish and Mickey swimming around the tank. Mrs. Fish is still not 100% recovered from the swim bladder issue, but has made it down to nibble on algae around the cave. Outside of the water change this is the first time in quite a while that she’s been able to swim down from the surface for an extended length of time. I did notice a bit of flashing still from Mickey. I haven’t checked the water parameters in this tank in a few days, but would be shocked if we have any ammonia/nitrite right now with the 25% water changes every day. (Everything had stabilized before the treatments started…) So, I suspect the flashing is still from gill flukes. Hopefully though if we can treat today again and Saturday then we will have covered most of their life cycle (the flukes) and eliminated most of them.

Update – late evening 1-20-11

Large water change – probably 30-40 percent. I did another treatment for parasites, the last will be on Saturday. Today has marked a great improvement in the behavior of Mrs. Fish. She is able to swim down into the tank now. First day I’ve seen her doing that spontaneously. Last water change she did manage to hide in the cave, but after it was over she was simply floating back to the top. (She really struggled to stay down there too.) Today though, it seems as though staying down is much easier. I still can detect a bit of buoyancy, but this has been a big improvement. I think we’re almost out of the woods with this outbreak of gill flukes (and swim bladder.)

Update – 1-22-11

The last few days have seen such improvement in the behavior and health of Mrs. Fish and Mickey that in addition to getting more plants I’ve added 2 more platys (both females). The goal is to take the pressure off of Mrs. Fish. I am expecting to do the last treatment of the tank this evening for parasites and then sometime tomorrow or Monday move Mickey over to the 10 gallon. (water quality is seeming pretty good. ammonia has gone from 0.25 to just a bit above zero on the chart (closer to 0 than 0.25) today.)

Ammonia/nitrite both have tested 0 in this tank today. I’m keeping an eye on it again due to it hosting 4 fish. I’ve avoided the temptation to over feed this time around so I hope not to see a spike. I will be doing a 25% change of water before the last treatment. (And picking the rotting peas that may still remain from the previous attempts at relieving the problems with constipation that seem to have accompanied the gill flukes and swim bladder.

Update 1-24-11

I did the 25% water change (probably really more like 30%) and treated. All fish are looking pretty good. One of the new arrivals was a bit bossy (the biggest female). So, Saturday I moved her over to the new tank as the ammonia level had been going down over there (lower than 0.25). Today it’s down to 0 (or VERY close). There may be a hint of green in the vial (api test kit), but it’s very close.

So, there is now peace in the tank. The other three are looking pretty content at the moment and I don’t expect to be treating again for gill flukes at this time.

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January 16, 2011 - 6:02 PM