What is Goldfish ICH?
ICH is an abbreviation for Ichtypohirius multifiliis. It is also often referred to as White Spot Disease and for good reason. White spots or speckles will seem to appear overnight and often found on a goldfish’s body, fins, or head. These parasites will latch onto almost any type of fish including the beta fish, catfish, and blowfish.
What are the symptoms of Goldfish ICH?
The most prominent sign that your fish is suffering from ICH will be the white speckles that have developed on their body, fins or head. However, your fish may also begin swimming into or against objects in his tank or even the tank itself. This behavior may occur as your fish becomes itchy from the parasites feeding off of him. Goldfish may also experience an increase in their respiratory system or rapid breathing due to the parasites latching onto their gills. If ICH is left untreated, then the disease will quickly worsen causing further damage, and bigger white speckles will develop on the fish. This stage of the disease will be difficult to treat and may result in fish fatalities.
What is the lifecycle for the parasites?
The lifecycle for ICH parasites (or White Spots Disease) is approximately a four stage process that takes place over a three day period. By this fact alone, early treatment or prevention is dire.
Stage 1: Stage one is the “parasite feeding” stage. The parasites begin by feeding on the tissues of the fish to help them grow quickly. While the parasites are feeding, they are being surrounded by a protective white “bubble” (white speckles). Treatment will not be effective when the parasites are in this stage.
Stage 2: Stage two is the “adult parasite” or “free-living parasite” stage. The parasites will have grown enough to release from the fish and fall to the bottom of the tank (“free-living”).
Stage 3: Stage three is often referred to as the reproductive stage for ICH parasites. The adult parasites that fell to the bottom of the tank will search out an object (plants, rocks, ornaments) and attach themselves to the object. It is here that they will create a parasitic capsule and begin to multiply.
Stage 4: Stage four is the “birthing” stage. The parasitic capsule that the adult parasites produced (now full of hundreds of baby parasites) will open. The baby parasites will then find a fish to latch onto and feed off of and thus beginning another ICH cycle.
I think my goldfish has ICH, how can I treat it?
There are a couple of very standard treatment plans for Goldfish ICH. Choose the treatment plan you would prefer or feel more comfortable performing.
Natural treatment plan:
Many pet parents feel that going “all natural” or “all organic” (food, medication, treats, etc.) is the best option. In general, it is mostly just preference. If you would like to choose a treatment plan for Goldfish ICH that doesn’t require any chemicals then here is what you should know! Read each step carefully before beginning the treatment plan at home.
***Important notes to remember before starting***
You will need to increase the temperature of the tank water to 75º-78º F. It is important that you do so with caution and only raise the temperature of the water about 2º F each hour. Choose a 100% natural sea salt or aquarium salt that is recommended for freshwater fish. The salt concentration inside the tank should never be more than 0.3%. A good rule of thumb to follow is to have 1 Tablespoon (or 3 Teaspoons) of 100% natural sea salt or aquarium salt for freshwater fish per 5 gallons of water.
Follow each step to prevent any fish fatalities.
Step 1: Eliminate about 40% of the tank water and keep in a separate container for now
Step 2: Clean all of the rocks or gravel that sit on the bottom of the tank. Be sure to remove all plants and other objects as well.
Step 3: Begin to increase the temperature of the remaining tank water 2º per hour until the water is a steady 75º-78º F.
Step 4: Use some of the tank water that was removed in step 1 to dissolve the salt. Make sure the salt is completely dissolved before adding to the main tank. Follow the appropriate water and salt ratio (1 TBS salt per 5 gallons of water).
Step 5: Add about 15%-20% of the salt water mixture to the main tank.
Step 6: Allow 15-20 minutes to pass before adding an additional 15%-20% of the salt water mixture to the tank.
Step 7: Continue steps five and six until the salt water mixture has been completely added to the main tank.
***Important notes during the treatment process***
The white spots may disappear or may not reappear during the salt water mixture treatment. It is important that you continue the salt treatment plan for at least 3-5 days after the white spots have disappeared. Also, a salt water mixture treatment should never be used for more than ten days.
Step 8: Do your best to keep the water temperature at a steady 75º-78º F throughout the entire ten-day process.
Step 9: Do your best to keep up with changing about 20% of the water every two days during the salt water mixture treatment. It is also important to remember to add the corresponding and appropriate amount of salt water mixture to it.
Step 10: It is safe to begin to decrease the tank water temperature on day 10. Remember to reduce the temperature slowly (2º F per hour) until the water returns to its average temperature of 60º-65º F.
Step 11: It would be wise to do one last water change (about 25%-30%) with regular water once the salt water mixture treatment is completed.
What if I don’t feel comfortable doing the salt treatment option?What are my other options?
If you don’t feel comfortable performing such an in-depth treatment plan, then you do have another option. You can choose from a variety of commercial treatments. These treatment options will need to contain an anti-parasitic ingredient known as Malachite Green. Otherwise, it won’t be effective.
Medication treatment plan:
Step 1: Remove carbon filter. This filter is designed to eradicate foreign chemicals or unwanted growth in the tank. The Malachite Green anti-parasitic medication will be caught by this carbon filter and eliminated thus not fixing the ICH problem.
Step 2: Begin to increase the tank’s water temperature 2º F per hour until it is a steady 75º-78º F.
Step 3: Follow the directions on the medication packaging. They will best guide you through their particular step-by-step process. These anti-parasitics can come as a liquid or as a powder. Choose the medication and form with which you feel the most comfortable. For best results, do not stray from the packaging instructions.
I don’t believe my fish has White Spots Disease (ICH), how can I prevent them from contracting it?
There are multiple ways that you as a pet parent can prevent your fish from ever contracting ICH.
First: Be aware of the health of the goldfish (or any fish) before you buy them. If you notice any of the fish in the tank (or in the store) have white speckles as described above or seem out of sorts in any way, it is best to shop elsewhere. Don’t take a chance with a dirty store or irresponsible shop owners.
Second: Buy tank plants that are sold out of a different tank than the fish. If even one fish in a tank is ill, the other fish and plants can be carriers.
Third: Perform regular water changes for the tank. Your fish deserve quality, clean water to help keep them happy, healthy and well oxygenated.
Fourth: Be cautious about how many fish, plants, and other living (and non-living) things you have in a single tank. Some fish may be small in size when you buy them, but they may need room to grow still. Also, overpopulation will increase the risk of diseases and illnesses being spread to the other fish and plants.
Fifth: Any new fish should be held in a “quarantined” tank. They need to remain away from other fish for approximately 2-3 weeks to ensure they are in good health before introducing them to their new tank-mates.
Sixth (and final): Goldfish do not eat fish flakes or pellets in the wild. They are omnivores that enjoy a variety diet that contains plants, insects, roots, worms, and sometimes even small fish. Feed your goldfish a variety of similar healthy foods and you should have a happy and healthy goldfish for years to come!
Remember: When you first notice the white speckles on your fish, do not panic. Do your research and possibly even speak to a veterinarian about what you are seeing before jumping into a treatment plan or fearing the worse for your finned friend.