Fishpox in the freshwater aquarium

Fish diseases can appear in your aquarium at any time. They can be brought by any new fish on its body from the store and introduced to your aquarium without quarantine. It may also have developed due to negligence in the care of the aquarium. Improper water, too rarely cleaned aquarium, lingering remains - all this can lead to the development of diseases in fish. And one of the most common diseases that occur in freshwater fish is chickenpox.


It is a very dangerous disease, so every aquarist should be particularly sensitive to it. Take care of your fish and prevent your aquarium from being ravaged by fish pox. Prevention is much easier than cure.


Why is it so dangerous?

Fish pox, the official name of which is ichthyophthiosis, is a very dangerous disease. It runs in three successive stages, but it is curable only in the first of them. If you miss the first symptoms, it may be too late for your fish. It can be treated when the parasite is defenseless - that is, when it sinks from the fish's body to the bottom of the tank and has not yet enveloped itself with mucus, creating the form of a cyst. Another chance to fight the parasite is when the mucosa breaks and the tides come out looking for a host.

The disease is caused by parasites that have a great ability to reproduce. That is why this disease spreads very quickly throughout the aquarium and can devastate the population of fish.


The causes of fish pox

Fish pox is a disease caused by a parasite- Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. This parasite is common in every freshwater reservoir. Sometimes it can even be observed in the aquarium with the naked eye. These parasites most often located under the epidermis of the fish, but sometimes they attack the connective tissue of the gills and damage it. They can also settle in the mouth or on the cornea of the eye. During the life cycle, the parasite attacks only one host. After reaching maturity, the parasite leaves the fish. It is located on plants or soil and forms a cyst there. Such a parasite can produce up to two thousand young buoys that contaminate the entire body of water and spread in order to search for their own hosts.

Fish pox is caused by a parasite but Ichthyophthirius multifiliis is not the only evil. The occurrence of the disease is also influenced by a number of other factors such as dirty water or improper temperature in the aquarium. Fish that have suffered any injuries, are stressed, or are weakened or poorly fed are also particularly exposed to this disease. They may also be weakened during transport to the aquarium in too cool water. Therefore, quarantine is recommended for newly purchased fish - because stress and new conditions can reveal the disease.


The symptoms of fish pox

When smallpox appears in an aquarium, you need to act very quickly. The disease is treatable, but only when the fish are still in the first stage of the disease. When the parasite leaves the body of the fish or when the tides are looking for a host. Unfortunately, the first symptoms are not very easy to recognize. 

At first, the fish may become nervous and restless. It will make very sudden movements and rub against the walls of the aquarium, plants, or decorative elements that are in the water. All this to try to get rid of the parasite that will nest in its body. You can also observe that the fins are folded and stuck together. Over time, small spots will appear on the body of the fish. They will be white and resemble semolina, and the number of white points will increase over time. The first point of disease appears usually on the fins and the back of the fish. At this stage, however, the disease progresses quickly and the white points occupy more and more of the fish's body surface. This is not the end of changes. Over time, the fins become increasingly jagged and the gills are red and swollen. There is also a large amount of mucus on them. A sick fish begins to have breathing problems - more and more often it stays just below the surface of the water, makes movements with its mouth as if it was "swallowing air". It also has no appetite and is weakened or it can lie in the gut. Sometimes her eyes change too - they become foggy.


Treatment of fish pox

Treatment is very difficult and possible only if the disease is not yet advanced and the parasite has not attacked the internal organs of the fish. The main difficulty is recognising the symptoms of the disease at a stage that allows the fish to heal and recover quickly. If you notice a sick fish and the symptoms confirm that you may be dealing with fish pox, you first of all need to isolate the sick fish from the healthy ones. You also need to identify the source of the disease in the first place - remember that it is a parasitic disease, so the parasite can still be in the aquarium. It will also be good if you disinfect them thoroughly and then transfer the healthy fish to another clean tank. Aeration and frequent water changes are also important in the treatment process. They are treated in two ways. The first one consists in gradually increasing the water temperature by several degrees. Do not raise it abruptly, fish do not like such changes. The parasite, however, cannot survive in water at elevated temperatures. However, you still need to know the conditions of keeping the fish and plants and their temperature tolerance.

The second method is most often used in the case of fish that do not tolerate the higher temperature in the aquarium very well and are very sensitive to such changes. Then, special baths in medicines and preparations are used - malachite green, for example, is quite commonly used for this purpose. However, it must be in the right concentration - then it will work properly and will not harm the fish. If you decide to use special solutions and preparations, never exceed the dose recommended by the manufacturer of the product.


Prevention of fish pox

Treatment of fish pox is very difficult - it takes a relatively long time, and at the same time it is only possible when the disease is in its initial stage - parasites on fish’s body are not sensitive to drugs, it only changes when they break away from it. However, you can prevent fish pox, or at least make sure that your fish have the least chance of becoming infected.

First of all, provide your fish with the best possible living conditions - make sure that the water is not too cold, clean, and well aired. Also, keep an eye on the fish diet. Watch out for any injuries that may arise to your fish and do not put them under any stress. You should also remember about regular aquarium cleaning and obligatory quarantine. Fish that will be introduced into a new aquarium without quarantine may bring a parasite with them that will infect other aquarium inhabitants.


To sum up, fish pox is a disease that can affect all freshwater fish species. It is caused by a parasite - Ichthyophthirius multifiliis - which is common in freshwater reservoirs. An untreated pox virus very quickly leads to the death of the fish. The disease can only be treated at the right moment in the development of the parasite. The infected fish is nervous, rubs against objects, and a characteristic white coating appears on its body. Over time, it also loses its appetite and begins to have trouble breathing. The parasite can infect the entire aquarium very quickly, so it will be necessary to disinfect it and isolate the sick fish from healthy ones.