Ich Disease

What causes Ich or white spot?

Goldfish Ich is the most common goldfish disease in freshwater aquariums, along with Swim Bladder disorder. This is a parasite which most aquarists eventually encounter.

Ich is usually caused by poor water quality, overcrowded aquarium or when a sudden temperature change occurs. When water temperature changes inside the tank, this provides an ideal opportunity for parasites to breed. This disease also occurs when fish are stressed or when a new and infected fish is added to the community.

What are the symptoms?

Ich is easy to observe because this parasite causes irritation and inflammation. Your goldfish will start to itch against the side of the tank in an attempt to 'itch their ich'.

Click image to enlarge.

You can also see small white spots on its gills, body and fins. If you don't take immediate remedial action, your goldfish will become highly distressed and can damage their gills in an attempt to gain relief. All this combined with the loss of appetite can lead to death.

How to cure Ich?

It's very important to understand the life cycle of Ich so you can treat and prevent it. First, the protozoan attaches to the skin of the fish and begins feeding, which causes irritation. Your fish's body begins to encapsulate the parasite to limit their damage. Protozoans continue to move around the cyst feeding and growing.

In this first stage, it's very hard to treat Ich because medications cannot penetrate trough the wall of the cyst or reach the parasite. In this stage, the Ich protozoan is called trophozoite.

When the tropozoite matures, it's called trophont. This will burst trough the skin of the fish and fall at the bottom of the tank. Now it begins to divide into hundreds of ich-infecting units called tomites. When the trophont bursts the tomites are released. They penetrate the skin of the fish and the cycle is repeated.

To speed up the life cycle of the parasite you need to raise the water temperature around 75-80oF. This way the entire life cycle will complete in 3-5 days. In outdoor ponds, at 50oF this process can take more than 4 weeks. It's known that most strains of Ich cannot reproduce at a temperature above 85oF. If you choose to use this as a treatment, you need to raise no more than 1-2 degrees per hour and maintain this temperature for about 10 days. Do not discontinue treatment when spots go away.

You can treat the tank using medication or with salt solution. The 'less chemical' treatment should be much easier on your fish, biological filter, and your wallet. As medication, you can use: Malachite Green, Formalin or Chopper. Meds should not be used in conjunction with high temperature because they both reduce oxygen levels. Less oxygen, combined with respiration problems due to Ich can be fatal.

Salt treatment

There are lots of types of salt, but the ones that use anti-caking agents and iodine will be harmful in long term use. Recommended salts are: sea salt, kosher salt, aquarium salt or pure Morton's rock salt. Natural sea salt contains no additives and it's favorited because if its high variety of minerals.

The salt treatment is one of the commonly used and with good results in getting rid of ich successfully. What kind of salt you need? Do not use any other salt besides table salt or 'sea salt'. Salt will not harm your goldfish if used in the correct amounts.

You want to keep salt concentration at 0.3% during treatment:
1 Tablespoon/ gallon = 0.3%
3 teaspoons/ gallon = 0.3%
2 teaspoons/ gallon = 0.2%
1 teaspoon/ gallons = 0.1%

This is how to do it:

  • do a 40% water change on day #1
  • vacuum gravel to get rid of the white spots that have dropped of the fish
  • if you're not confident in salt, use a malachite green formula. You can buy it from your local pet store or online
  • remove all plants, as salt will harm them
  • increase water temperature to high 70's
  • if using high temperature treatment use no more than 1 Tablespoon per 1 gallon of water
  • drain some water from the aquarium to dissolve the salt. Never add salt directly. Also don't add all the dissolved salt at once. Add 20% of the salt mix, wait 15 minutes. Repeat this process until all salt water has been added to your tank
  • treatment should go on at least 3 days after any visible signs of Ich can be detected. Don't discontinue treatment when spots go away. Use this treatment for maximum 10 days
  • do 20% water change and vacuum bottom every 2 days, or when the ich drops to from the fish
  • you must replace the salt lost during water change, but it will be added in a much lesser amount - IMPORTANT
  • maintain an even water temperature as much as possible

  • Example: 20 gallon aquarium with a 20% water change, you need to add 3-4 Tablespoons of salt to replace the lost salt.

If you will follow this salt treatment or any other medicated treatment, the Ick problem sorts itself out within about 10 days. Now you have to be very careful because your goldfish are weak and susceptible to secondary infections. Keep doing regular water changes and feed them healthy and fresh food.

How to prevent Ich?

  • purchase only healthy and disease free goldfish
  • always quarantine new fish for at least 2 weeks
  • never buy plants from a source that keeps them in a fish tank with fish
  • maintain a high quality water by doing regular water changes
  • do not overstock your tank
  • feed your goldfish a varied, healthy and tasty food

Do not use extra medicine or combine these treatments one after another!

Recommended Medicine

Here you can find the medicine listed above. Click the image to find how you can purchase the desired medicine.


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