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I want to know what happened

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So, hey all, new to this forum but not new to fish or goldfish keeping in general. I'd like to clarify this is not an emergency, but something that resulted in a death of a fish almost 2 months ago that I wasn't able to find any answers for anywhere, so I hope posting here to pick your brains in case someone with more experience may be able to shed some light on it. This victim did not make it, but I would like to know if I could prevent it from happening again. It seemed most reasonable to post in the disease section.

Mildly unpleasant description warning? Long post for sure. Thank you in advance if you read it.

 

The victim: female calico ranchu goldfish between 4-5 inches long, imported from Thailand(?) to the US at some point this year(?) from one of the main big importers here. Got her in March. Before then I had only ever kept common or oranda goldfish, so this is my first time having eggfish.

Tank setup: approx 20 gal tote with floating hornwort and HOB to get them used to my water until I haggle out the details of a new indoor stock tank (had other plans but they didn't work out). At the time of this story, she had 3 tankmates that were between 2-3.5 inches, so there were 4 eggfish total. Changed a portion of the water daily to help the HOB (10-30%) and still do about 10% despite only having two young fish left in there. I only have the liquid ammonia test kit (tested 0 ppm at this time) and some strips I'd gotten to read gh/kh, which says I had maybe 40-60 ppm in nitrates. (after this event I did a 50% change anyway) There's also a few of those aqueon pure enzyme/bacteria things sitting in the HOB as well (so I guess these work after all)

The story:
This was a reasonably healthy-looking fish and had even tried to spawn shortly after I got her. She would sleep right next to her "boyfriend" in a particular corner of the tote basically every night. One day I woke up to feed them breakfast and noticed she was sitting near the bottom, which was unusual. She normally begged the most. I had to go somewhere that day so I fed them (she ate a pellet) and went to do whatever.

Came back about 3 hours later and realized she was bottom sitting again, but now she was a bit pale. I used a net to bring her close to the surface, and she seemed rounder than normal and a little pale. Well, last time I had a fish with a round belly its organs had appeared to turn to bloody jelly under its skin and it quickly died (this one was male, also an import gotten around the same time from the same seller. I assumed his guts rotted or something because he was fine up until he wasn't, and then it progressed very quickly. When I isolated him for treatment he was just lethargic and bloated, but by the second day [when he died] he had the jellied abdomen when I tilted him with gloves on. Still don't understand what happened to him but I think perhaps he was harboring an aggressive strain of bacteria and the first day I noticed he wasn't feeling well I was moving them into this larger tote).

Naturally I was concerned, as she clearly seemed uncomfortable. I got a small tote of water set up and put epsom salt and aquarium salt in there and netted her into it. I waited about two hours, and she never pooped during this time so I assumed she was constipated or egg bound or both. I tried to offer some peas, but when she didn't eat any I decided to go manual. So I put on gloves and began gently massaging her sides as if I were to hand spawn, but even more gentle than that. I did this for about 45-60 mins, then left her alone to take a break, then resumed and repeat. I think I may have done this 3-4 times. I was only able to get a little bit of poop to come out, which reinforced the idea that maybe she was constipated.

At 6pm I could tell things were going south. She was twitching a lot and was getting fairly pale, and she'd swim in erratic bursts and run into the sides of the tote, like she was starting to have death seizures. I put on new gloves and went back to massaging. Here's where it gets pretty bad: as I massaged I saw a small, whitish, pimple-like/whitehead bump appear right below her vent, a bit to the side. I poked it few times and it was soft, but each time I massaged along her belly it seemed to get bigger... 

And then the "bubble" suddenly burst and a ton of whitish pus came out. It was making the water smell bitter. So gross. Glad I had gloves on.

As cysts or abscesses go, typically to make it better a doctor will drain it first before applying something to disinfect. So I thought since it was already broken and oozing a lot, maybe if I drained it super fast I could relieve the pressure on her guts and save her, so I continued with a more "normal" hand breeding pressure. Didn't work. She just grew more and more pale as the pus came out and by the time it was mostly drained out I think she had already died...because when I let go she was absolutely 100% dead. Once the pus drained out, some poop was able to come out and it looked normal, other than the fact it came from a dead fish. I keep thinking if I had x-ray vision and could see what the real problem was then maybe draining it before she was having death seizure symptoms could've been enough to save her?

I had to leave her body in the tote to go do dinner things so the corpse was about two hours old by the time I was able to return for dissection (I had also wanted to dissect the male with the jelly belly but decided against it because I felt that it was quite evident that whatever was inside was just gonna come gushing out). Obviously not ideal, you wanna do it asap. I got some pointy surgical scissors, cut the skin along the belly starting from the vent (scales are tough, man) and poked around and couldn't find anything weird. No signs that her tissues ever held a bunch of pus. I quickly put her body in a bag as it was beginning to smell and had to throw it away instead of burying. I felt rather traumatized by the fact I tried to save her and she just died in my hands, and she had been 100% normal the night before.

--

A few weeks later I woke up late one day and went to check on the remaining fish only to find her "boyfriend" had died while I was asleep. I don't really know how long he was dead but he was floating and bloated and bacteria had clearly been working away at his corpse for awhile, so I removed it and did an immediate water change. Don't know much about goldfish thought processing but the remaining two females seemed traumatized by his death and stayed far far away from him until I removed the body, and they didn't resume normal activity until the third day after the fact.

I know I'm not the only person who has had trouble with imported goldfish -- plenty of people on facebook with far better setups than me have stated they've lost imported fish one by one to either mysterious reasons or to very obvious illnesses that no amount of medicine was able to treat (and no in between). However, I've yet to find someone whose fish exhibited the same symptoms as mine (jellied organs, pus buildup) and I know for every person who has bad luck there are also people who have had good luck. Was I just unlucky with this batch?? Or was there something else going on? What even happened that day? I know eggfish are somewhat more sensitive than fancies with dorsals, but the majority of other people reporting poor import results actually have orandas.

I also have 2 fish from another importer that I never mixed due to the fact that one of them is very fragile health-wise and despite all the things I do for them, he still gets sick on occasion and it feels harder to treat it every time... Due to the near permanent quarantine they seem to be in, these guys only have a big air stone and get daily 50% water changes instead, or more if they're currently actively medicated (I medicate both at once under the assumption that whatever he's having, his buddy probably also harbors). Someone on facebook thinks we're all changing too much water too often and that's why our imports are dying, but I would assume having clean water is more important...some breeders and importers that I know about do large daily water changes too, so that doesn't really make sense. So for all of these reasons, until I figure out what's going on or come up with a better option I'm no longer particularly willing to buy any more imported fish except under specific circumstances or assuming my experience was just a stroke of bad luck and nothing more. I do have a handful of fry from some of these fish who died but I'm not sure what all their genes are worth, but so far they seem lots hardier just by being born and raised in my water.

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:hi and :welcome

When you can please fill this out. It really does help us to understand everything along with your post above. :)

 

Please copy & paste the following form and fill it out to the best of your ability when requesting help for Goldfish Problems:

 

Test Results for the Following:

 Ammonia Level(Tank)

 Nitrite Level(Tank)

 Nitrate level(Tank)

 Ammonia Level(Tap)

 Nitrite Level(Tap)

 Nitrate level(Tap)

 Ph Level, Tank (If possible, KH, GH and chloramines)

 Ph Level, Tap (If possible, KH, GH and chloramines)

Other Required Info:

 Brand of test-kit used and whether strips or drops?

 Water temperature?

 Tank size (how many gals.) and how long has it been running?

 What is the name and "size of the filter"(s)?

 How often do you change the water and how much?

 How many days ago was the last water change and how much did you change?

 How many fish in the tank and their size?

 What kind of water additives or conditioners?

 What do you feed your fish and how often?

 Any new fish added to the tank?

 Any medications added to the tank?

 List entire medication/treatment history for fish and tank.Please include salt, Prazi, PP, etc and the approximate time and duration of treatment.

 Any unusual findings on the fish such as "grains of salt," bloody streaks, frayed fins or fungus?

 Any unusual behavior like staying at the bottom, not eating, etc.?

"If copy and paste doesn't work for you, quote this post and put your answers after each question."

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 Ammonia Level(Tank) 0ppm

 Nitrite Level(Tank) 0ppm

 Nitrate level(Tank) 60-80 ppm

 Ammonia Level(Tap) 0ppm

 Nitrite Level(Tap) 0.079ppm (according to city water report), 0 in filtered water

 Nitrate level(Tap) 0.079ppm (according to city water report), 0 in filtered water

 Ph Level, Tank (If possible, KH, GH and chloramines) pH ~6-7, kh/gh <40 ppm (only have strip values for kh/gh, ph value is lab grade strips)

 Ph Level, Tap (If possible, KH, GH and chloramines)  pH ~5-6, no chloramines (filtered water), kh/gh n/a

Other Required Info:

 Brand of test-kit used and whether strips or drops? API's liquid ammonia test and API 5-in-1 test strip. pH value has always been read off lab grade strips instead.

 Water temperature? currently higher end due to peak summer weather, 74-84 depending on the air temp during the day (in a garage subject to natural temperature changes). Don't know what the temp was the day she died; didn't stick my hands in there but her friends were normal and active

 Tank size (how many gals.) and how long has it been running? about 20gal tote, filter ran for a month before having to add fish. It was originally for in case I needed to separate them for some reason. Up until she died it already ran for approx 5mo total and is still running fine with the remaining fish. They were initially in a kiddie pool for quarantine shortly after I got them but it was very inconvenient, so I bought more backup totes during a corona grocery run and moved them to the cycled tote in April. Remaining fish live

 What is the name and "size of the filter"(s)? Top fin silenstream 20-30 gal HOB

 How often do you change the water and how much? daily 10-30%, mostly near the lower end. Take out about half a 5 gal bucket each time and once every 4-6 weeks I switch out the full 5 gals

 How many days ago was the last water change and how much did you change? this happened over a month ago, but it would've been in the range of previous question

 How many fish in the tank and their size? 4 fish (including her). She was approx 4-5 inches, her boyfriend 3.5 inches, other two fish between 2-3 inches

 What kind of water additives or conditioners? Seachem prime, sometimes a little seachem flourish for floating stem plants in there, a little baking soda to bring pH closer to neutral

 What do you feed your fish and how often? wet pellets 2-3x a day, thawed bloodworms once or twice a week, boiled peas once every 1-2 weeks

 Any new fish added to the tank? Nope

 Any medications added to the tank? Nope

 List entire medication/treatment history for fish and tank. Please include salt, Prazi, PP, etc and the approximate time and duration of treatment. This particular fish never required any serious treatment until she died from the pus buildup. I've never treated the entire tote for anything other than sometimes putting a little salt into the aquarium water for electrolytes/minerals.

 Any unusual findings on the fish such as "grains of salt," bloody streaks, frayed fins or fungus? Nope, just felt a bit bloated

 Any unusual behavior like staying at the bottom, not eating, etc.? The day of the event she was somewhat bottom sitting in the morning but still active, then around midday she was bottom sitting a lot and ignoring everyone and didn't bother coming up to eat

 

Thank you if you read the original post, I tried to include as many details as I possibly could. At this point I'm mostly only lost on what the pus buildup is/how it came about since I've been completely unable to find anything similar about anyone else's fish (any fish at this point) dying in this manner (especially considering it was fast and everyone else's imports who die typically die slowly over time instead of less than a day) and when I dissected her I didn't find anything weird and certainly no signs that there had ever been pus?? I've accepted her death, but still very confused and still traumatized by the experience even over a month later, haha :/

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It's never easy seeing your fish die in front of you. 😔

It sounds like a bad bacterial infection.

@Arctic Mama is really good with meds. I'm thinking metro for meds but let's see what she has to say. 😆

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Yes, we were thinking it was possibly some kind of hidden internal bacterial infection. Same idea for the male who ended up with the cursed-sounding "jelly belly" description (no idea how else to describe it), although likely different bacteria. Maybe even viral? We did try to treat the jelly-belly male with antibiotics when we first noticed he was turning pale from discomfort on "day one", but on day two of treatment I poked him sideways and saw the real scope of his plight and realized he was likely too far gone. Still, added the second dose like normal...but he died before the end of the day. It was so gruesome, I wouldn't wish the sight on anyone's fish.

Obviously still not sure how the pus in this female could've come about so quickly and leave no traces in the carcass...unless perhaps it was building up for awhile and she was just hiding it until it became too obvious? I read they can hide discomfort for awhile, much like many other animals. She was still acting pretty normal the night before :( so for her, we didn't really have time to treat it as she died the same day I discovered she was acting abnormally. What if other folks' bottom sitting fish who mysteriously die are actually suffering from a similar issue...??? :o 

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I’m sorry I missed this email, let me make dinner and get back with some thoughts. It’s hard to diagnose anything without pictures, but I’ll do my best.

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Okay, you don’t have to name names, but there are some particular farms importing in from Thailand with viral issues that get out of control when the fish is stressed. I lost multiple fish to this, AFTER a long quarantine, and it pops up to this day in my remaining stock whenever they’re stressed by higher nitrates.  To that end, you are registering almost three times the amount we recommend as a safe upper limit and that usually means some filter cleaning needs to happen. When it crosses 20ppms it’s time - some fancies are much more sensitive to that than others.

I wouldn’t assume this is bacterial, most bacterial infections come from poor water quality, but it sounds like in quarantine the fish were doing well for a time. That sort of low level okay and then illness explosion in my experience is viral, and it doesn’t respond wel to medication. Without pictures, autopsy, etc, I couldn’t tell you more. But I will say that any stock who were exposed to your import I would assume are infected and carrying it now, and I would not introduce any new animals to that tank until the existing stock die. Then it’s time to nuke the filter and sterilize all the tank components, hoses, etc, before starting again.

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1 hour ago, Arctic Mama said:

Okay, you don’t have to name names, but there are some particular farms importing in from Thailand with viral issues that get out of control when the fish is stressed. I lost multiple fish to this, AFTER a long quarantine, and it pops up to this day in my remaining stock whenever they’re stressed by higher nitrates.  To that end, you are registering almost three times the amount we recommend as a safe upper limit and that usually means some filter cleaning needs to happen. When it crosses 20ppms it’s time - some fancies are much more sensitive to that than others.

I wouldn’t assume this is bacterial, most bacterial infections come from poor water quality, but it sounds like in quarantine the fish were doing well for a time. That sort of low level okay and then illness explosion in my experience is viral, and it doesn’t respond wel to medication. Without pictures, autopsy, etc, I couldn’t tell you more. But I will say that any stock who were exposed to your import I would assume are infected and carrying it now, and I would not introduce any new animals to that tank until the existing stock die. Then it’s time to nuke the filter and sterilize all the tank components, hoses, etc, before starting again.

Ah okay yeah, all my fish were fine through quarantine and then one by one they started coming down with weird and fairly gruesome symptoms that I couldn't find answers for. This particular girl I dissected after her death (albeit a bit late) and honestly find anything out of the ordinary, but at the same time I have to admit I don't know what I'd be looking for other than obvious stuff (like lumpy organs if it was TB).

I'm admittedly not really sure which country all these fish from "vendor 1" came from other than the one I was treating this past week. He and his buddy comes from a different importer, we'll just say "vendor 2" -- he was improving at first and then took a turn for the worse and did not make it, but I have since found some scientific papers talking about some viral infections that seem similar to his symptoms. I only have 2 fish left from vendor 1 and 1 fish left from vendor 2, all female, and have not put any of them together. However, I have gotten some locally bred fish and had seeded their filter by running it on the tote with the remaining fish from vendor 1. Should I be worried? I also have a handful of fry left from some of these fish who are now dead. What are the chances that they carry it as well/should I be concerned?

Since her death I have had to scrub the filter once (although without soap...) as it had gotten clogged with dead plant bits, and I also changed the cartridge twice as it gunks up quickly and rinsing doesn't always fix it. Nowadays the nitrate level is max about 40 if I skip a couple days of PWC. I was hoping to get a stock tank and put all the fish together with a large canister filter but now knowing this I suppose I shouldn't...

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Like I said, any stock run in tanks with any equipment or livestock in common with them I’d unfortunately assume have been infected, just to be safe. You can change their tank or add fish or anything you want, but you’re gambling on this not being contagious and much of what’s been going around in the foreign stock stays low grade until a stress and then flares up and infects the fish and tanks. So if you really wants biosecurity with a future tank, everything will need to be thrown out, bleached or boiled. Air stones, ceramic media, tubing, hoses, nets, lids, sand, the tank itself, all plants. Etc etc.

It sucks, but that’s the only safe way to do it if you want to have uninflected stock down the road. Otherwise it’s a gamble ;)

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2 hours ago, Arctic Mama said:

Like I said, any stock run in tanks with any equipment or livestock in common with them I’d unfortunately assume have been infected, just to be safe. You can change their tank or add fish or anything you want, but you’re gambling on this not being contagious and much of what’s been going around in the foreign stock stays low grade until a stress and then flares up and infects the fish and tanks. So if you really wants biosecurity with a future tank, everything will need to be thrown out, bleached or boiled. Air stones, ceramic media, tubing, hoses, nets, lids, sand, the tank itself, all plants. Etc etc.

It sucks, but that’s the only safe way to do it if you want to have uninflected stock down the road. Otherwise it’s a gamble ;)

Okay, gotchu! I'll see what I can do

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