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Guest daviddmccullough

My Comet Is Not Eating

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Guest daviddmccullough

Hello all!

My comet goldfish, Joe, is not eating and hasn't been for about two-three weeks now. It seemed to have started after my wife and I went away for the week-end and I gave him one of those week-end feeders (one of the ones with the brine shrimp encased in substrate that slowly dissolves). Normally Joe is a very "talkative" fish. When my wife or I go near the tank he will swim over to us, shake his head and open and close his mouth a lot. I figure he just has a lot to say. But since we went away, he still comes over to us, but he doesn't open his mouth at all anymore. Normally, when we lift the lid of the tank, he'll go right to the top because he knows it's dinner time, but lately he'll just ignore that. Also, he his not pooing. Otherwise, he is acting fine. His fins are fully erect and he's swimming around and being very energetic.

Here is what I have tried. His diet consisted mainly of flake food, dried blood worms and the occasional pellet. He's not to hip to the pellet but he LOVES his flakes and the worms. I went to a fish place and they told me to try to give him some veg because he might be constipated. I used to give him spinach and cucumber, but he would just take them into his mouth and then spit them right out. So they gave me some duckweed to put in his tank. The duckweed is very pretty, but he's not eating it. Then I bought some algae wafers. I dropped one of those in the tank and he went right for it! He pushed it around a bit and my wife and I think he may have eaten some of it because most of it was gone after a day and there was some poo coming out of the fish (it didn't look normal though, stringy and bright green). I waited a day or two and gave him another wafer. He just pushed it around. I gave him some flakes this morning and when I lifted the canopy, he went right to the top of the water (which surprised me since he hasn't been doing that lately) looked at the food and swam away.

His mouth does not look injured and I can't tell if there is any white fuzz or growths because his mouth has always been a little pale. He's not skinny yet, but he has lost a little bit of weight. I don't know what to do now or what could be wrong.

Here are the water stats:

Ammonia is at 0, nitrite is at 0, nitrate is at 40, ph is at 7.5. He lives in a ten gallon tank that has been running for three weeks (I just moved him a few days ago hoping a bigger tank might perk him up). He has a penguin bio wheel filter made by marineland (Bio-wheel 100). I do a 20 % water change once a week. I use a tap water conditioner ( i forget the name) made by Topfin. There are no other additives to the water and currently there is no medication in the water.

Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

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It's possible that Joe was poisoned by the week-end feeder, it takes very little time for the nutrients in those blocks to convert to ammonia and nitrIte at toxic levels. The smaller the tank, the more concentrated the toxins and I gather Joe used to live in something smaller than the 10g.

Normally a poisoned fish will be very lethargic, perhaps bottom sitting and not eat. If Joe is still zooming around then we need to look for another possible cause for his hunger strike. The mostl likely is a mouth injury or something stuck inside the mouth. Perhaps he bit off a big chunk of the feeder, got it stuck and the sharp sides hurt his mouth? or, perhaps he has a pebble lodged inside?

There is an easy way to check. Catch your fish and hold him as gently as possible with his head only sticking out above the water. It is an automatic response for the fish to open his mouth, have someone handy with a torch and take a good look inside his mouth. If there is something lodged inside it's not that difficult to remove it with blunt-end tweezers.

If you can't see anything then it's still possible that his mouth is injured, try feeding soft food like cooked peas, squish them between your fingers till they pop out of their shell then cut into bite size pieces for your fish. Most fish love peas.

Let us know how you go.

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Guest daviddmccullough

Thanks for your response! I really appreciate it.

I will check his mouth when I get home today. I'll pull his head out of the water and see if he opens his mouth at all. If he does, I'll look inside and see what there is to see. I have two follow questions:

1. I thought that handling them damages thier slime coat? I understand that holding him gently and pulling his head out will help to diagnose the problem, but what else can I do to minimize the stress that this procedure will cause?

2. What if he still doesn't open his mouth? I'll try to get a closer look at his mouth at that point but what else could cause this problem? Should I try to open it with a toothpick?

Once again, thank you for your response.

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yes, you will remove some of their slime coat, -if you're wanting to minimise the stress on your fish, you could probably do with a big water change (80%), your nitrates are on the high side of acceptable, and if you're going to put your fish through a stressful situation it's best to get the nitrates down to about 5ppm (my personal experience is that although it is stated that up 40ppm nitrates is not poisonous, the goldies I've kept over the years always fare better in water with 5-10ppm nitrates. some fish do rather poorly with high levels of nitrate)

You can buy products that are like an artificial slime coat, usually containing aloevera, this is fine if the fish is healthy, but many in the hobby don't like these products because the aloevera coats the gills also, possibly impairing gas exchange. My personal choice if you were to use any product would to use Melafix for 7 days after handling your fish, -this is a mild antibacterial agent that can expediate healing in wounds, and also knocks the head on the bacteria in the water that your fish's slime coat is protecting it from.

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Guest daviddmccullough

Thanks for the heads up about the Melafix. I'm going to have a hard time holding him as he is very excitable, but it will be an adventure. The water that comes out of my tap is very high in Nitrates (around 20-40). Is that normal? So I'm thinking a water change may not bring the levels down. It never goes higher than 40 ppm.

Thank you all for your help and I'll see if I can keep you posted.

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Guest daviddmccullough

I have an update.

I just tested the water. The nitrate level is at 20 ppm and I think the nitirite level is between 0 and .5 ppm (it's not a great test and I will be getting a better one). I gently pulled him out, I had to use the net because I know he wouldn't have let me get that close to him, and he moved his gills, but he did not open his mouth. It looked like he was trying. I can't tell if there is any growth on it however. I put him back in his tank and after a few moments of him hiding, he came out where my wife and I could see him. Now I can see that there are some red spots on the edges of his fins. He had fin rot about 8 months ago (before I knew about water quality) and he re-covered form that but his tail didn't fully grow back. There seems to be some kind of whitish mucus on it.

I believe he has an infection of some sort. But what kind?

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Hmmm

"he moved his gills, but he did not open his mouth."

if he breached the water-line he should have gaped automatically; considering this, the finrot and mucus, I would be thinking about possible columnaris.

In light of this I would hold off on the melafix for now as you may need something a lot stronger. Before we decide upon medication, can you confirm which testers you are using? The reason I ask is that we have to be certain of accurate readings before running anti-bac meds. Two or three weeks without food is a long time, so we need to move quickly on this.

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Guest daviddmccullough

I am using the API 5 in one test kit. It's a dip stick with the five tests on it (Nitrite, Nitrate, PH, karbonate and hardness) and I have a separate API ammonia test kit. The problem is that the colors are so darned close that I can't tell some of the readings. I'm going to go out and get a better test kit (one with drops and tubes) and that will probablyt also be an API test kit. I would also like to get the meds then. What should I get? Should I salt the water?

Once again, thank you for your help.

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Well, here's the thing; you must not run meds if you have ammonia. The first thing is to get your API droppers and let us know the readings.

Also, I wanted to clarify this;

"He lives in a ten gallon tank that has been running for three weeks (I just moved him a few days ago hoping a bigger tank might perk him up). He has a penguin bio wheel filter made by marineland (Bio-wheel 100)."

So, is the 10g the new, larger tank? Also, did you transfer your filter across, or is this a new one?

(BTW - I think it would be better to change much more than 20% weekly; I'd go with 60%. This will keep the bad bacteria levels from climbing too high)

Depending on the answers to this and also the results of your ammonia and other readings, you have a couple of choices.

If you do have ammonia and nitrite, you could use ammo-chips/zeolite alongside the filter, just for the duration of treatment; remove carbon and run Maracyn 2 (by Mardel). Keep the tank dark, as light will deactivate the meds. If your stats turn out to be OK you would not need an ammonia absorbing agent.

However, I'd feel better knowing what your more accurate readings are before giving the green light for meds.

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Guest daviddmccullough

His new tank, which is the ten gallon, also has a new filter. There are also a few small plants in the tank. I'm going to get the test kit tomorrow and I'll post the results. I will also pick up some of the meds that you mentioned and if I don't need them, I'll return them. It probably won't be a bad idea to have ammonia absorbing tabs on hand for emergencies.

Thanks again for the help and the advice!

Edited by daviddmccullough

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Aha! So as tank and filter are new, your fish has been plunged straight back into re-cycling. The old filter would have housed all the beneficial bacteria necessary for biological filtration. I expect your ammonia is bound to be very high.

Take a beaker of your tank water to the lfs and ask them to test it while you are there. Get exact numbers rather than 'OK/safe' - that way you'll be in a better position to judge what you need while you're there.

How big was the previous tank, out of interest?

I'm strung between thinking that his inability to open his mouth or eat points to columnaris, but on the other hand, that he is under great stress from cycling.

Hmm When was the last time you changed the water and how much did you replace? Often times toxic water can generate symptoms which are hard to distinguish from infections and I'd hate to subject him to anti-biotics if the problem is just water quality.

Could you try once more to get a look inside his mouth. Personally I find that holding the fish is far less stressful than netting it; I usually put my hand in the tank for a while and let the fish grow accustomed to it - they are naturally curious and tend to swim around sniffing and nibbling. After a while you can slowly move toward the fish and gently grasp it, lifting it just above the water line. If it cannot open it's mouth at all I would think that the reason was down to columnaris adhesions. You are looking for any redness, swelling or white strands. If the fish definitely cannot gape, I would go with the Maracyn2.

If you are not completely clear on the nitrogen cycle you can check out the links below my signature.

I'm going to bed now (I'm on UK time and it's 3.30am!!!!) but I will drop in tomorrow.

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Guest daviddmccullough

The tank has been cycling for three weeks before I put him in there. I have taken the new tank water to my local lfs and they said it was fine. I will take some more to be tested when I head back over there today. The previous tank was 3 gallons, which is why I got him a new one. He is due for a water change today and I'll do about three gallons (with everything in his ten gallon tank, he has about 8 gallons of water) so that would be about an 38% water change.

I'll update you on the water tests from the lfs.

Thanks!

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Guest daviddmccullough

I have an update.

I went to my fish place and had then test the water. Ammonia was at .25 ppm, nitrite at .25 ppm, ph at 8.2 and nitrates at 20. I was shocked. I guess my api test strips were a little off. I got the API master test kit that has ammonia, ph, high ph, nitrate and nitrite. I also got the maracyn-2, .some seachem acid buffer and neutral regulator (our water here is very hard and they said that will contribute to the ph being so high. Both of these products will help to slowly lower the ph and maintain a healthy balance) and some aquarium salt. When I got home, I added some more stress zyme to help the cycling and I decided to try the test kit out and to verify thier findings.

Let me say that I was a little dissapointed with thier results. I did the ammonia test twice and found that the ammonia level is at 0. The test colors are yellow to green and it was quite plainly yellow. So thier ammonia test seemed to be off. The nitrite was dead on at .25 and that means that my tank wasn't completely done cycling. The ph is actually 8.0, still high but once again, wrong and the the nitrate is at 20.

So what do I do now? Should I salt the water to help stave off the effects of the high nitrites? Should I remove the filter and start dosing Joe with the Maracyn-two since both of my ammonia tests show that there is actually no ammonia in the water? Should I do a water change (I don't think I should do that since the tank is still cycling)? I have some water sitting so I can start to balance out the PH and add the salt if I need to.

What is my next step? Joe is still swimming around, being frisky and looking at me and investigating his new tank. He is not acting sick.

Could he have lockjaw? Someone at my fish place said that could be a possibility but I'm not too sure about thier advice right now. They also said that he is a goner and that there is nothing I can do about his condition. That really ticked me off since there is always something you can try. I'm not giving up on Joe!

Once again, thank you all for your advice and help. I'm learning more and more everyday!

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Aaaaagh! Rule Number 1 - pet store employees are generally morons and you should only ever ask them for prices, NEVER advice.

Great that you now have a proper kit and meds on hand.

Before their imbicility derails us completely, let's re-cap on your new info.

some seachem acid buffer and neutral regulator (our water here is very hard and they said that will contribute to the ph being so high. Both of these products will help to slowly lower the ph and maintain a healthy balance

Send these items back - you should not use them as they can often end up crashing your cycle and messing up the fish. Your PH is absolutely fine for goldies; in fact, a higher PH protects you from PH crash and also supports your beneficial bacteria more efficiently. It is some tropicals which need a more acidic PH, not goldies. The only thing you must be very careful of is that ammonia becomes more toxic in a higher PH - so just test your params every day and change water accordingly.

ammonia level is at 0. nitrite was dead on at .25 The ph is actually 8.0, and the nitrate is at 20.

So what do I do now? Should I do a water change (I don't think I should do that since the tank is still cycling)?

It is precisiely when the tank is still cycling that water changes are most needed. The benefical bacteria is establishing in the filter, not the water, so W/C's are the right way to reduce the toxicity of amm or n'ite.

Could he have lockjaw? Someone at my fish place said that could be a possibility but I'm not too sure about thier advice right now. They also said that he is a goner and that there is nothing I can do about his condition. That really ticked me off

More expertise and brilliance!!!!

As far as the next step is concerned, I am slightly torn. My feeling is that he probably does have internal columnaris which needs treating promptly.

However, meds require perfect water - amm/n'ite zero and nitrates below 20. Your cycle is progressing well, so I hate to interupt it by removing the media and using ammo-chips, as it will set you back a little. But in order to run meds I think you will have to do so.

It's very good you have the Mar2 to hand - let me just ask Trinket if she agrees. She may think that a medicinal dose of salt might be enough.

For now do a good water change and I will ask her to confirm the next step (up again at 2.30am and must go to bed!!)

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Hi David.

The thing that I find unusual reading through this personally is that Joe's mouth is sealed BUT he is behaving so well after not having eaten for so long and has no other bodily symptoms. Columnaris infections make the fish so sick and lethargic usually :hmm

That said, the fact that he did not open his mouth (a normal reflex action for fish on removal from water) means something is wrong and whether that is a mouth ulcer/injury or columnaris growth we cannot know at this point for 100% sure.

You say you cycled the tank for 3 weeks before adding the fish- what with? Ammonia? Strip kits of all kinds are so unreliable, its good you have a drop kit now to keep notes on how the cycle is progressing. It can take as long as 2 months. During this time ammonia and nitrites really have to be watched and removed daily.

How much aqaurium salt are you adding now? If you use the Maracyn2 remember the tank must be covered with a towel to prevent overhead light de-activating that antibiotic. I suppose it is worth doing but only if you can get the water completely free of amm and nitrites on a daily basis. That may mean 50% w/cs daily and replacing meds accordingly.

Edit by Pixie: Thank you very much, Trinket -

David - a bag of zeolite/ammo-chips can always be used to keep water perfect during treatment.

NB. This rests on there being no salt at all in the system - salt is the re-charging agent for this medium and causes it to release any ammonia it is holding. You will need to re-charge your chips periodically this way in a salt solution not in the tank!) as they will become exhausted after a while - just test water daily.

Pixie

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Guest daviddmccullough

Trinket,

That is exactly why I am so confused. When he got fin rot, he started to behave very differently and I knew something was wrong. But he is acting normal, except for not opening his mouth. I cycled his tank by putting in food and benefical bacteria and monitoring the status. It took a while but the nitrites spiked and then went down. When they were at zero on my test strips, I waited a day or two to make sure and then added Joe to the tank.

I'm heading back to my fish place today. I'll get the zeolite/ammonia chips. I'm currently not salting his tank. Should I? Would adding salt to create a .1% -.3% solution help that low-level nitrite that is hanging around? I have reservations medicating him because since he's not acting sick, it is a lot harder to diagnose the underlying problem. I don't want to medicate him and find out that I gave him the wrong medicene. But it has been three weeks since I believe he last ate and I don't want to wait much longer.

Thanks for the heads up about the light. I don't believe that is in the instructions for the medicene. I'll test his water in a few hours and post the results.

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It isn't in the directions no and I can't think why not. The other thing about columnaris is there are at least 5 strains and so Marcyn 2 can have a low success rate. You have some choices, the ammo chips + meds or salting the main tank which does help with nitrites yes and can help the fishes immunity by decreasing stress factors associated with lack of healing, like osmoregulation.

I would be inclined to suggest you use the 2 products Maracyn and Maracyn 2 (erythromycin + minocycline) together if you feel this might be columnaris, hard to know. Togthere they cover for a wider range of bacteria. You should know,- if its a mouth ulcer which can swell and close up the mouth - that too depends on the origin of the ulcer (injury related or bacterial)- that the antibiotics may not work.

Best luck.

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Guest daviddmccullough

Ammonia and Nitrites are both at 0 now. I bought ammonia chips, but haven't added them. Should I add them now as general maintenance, or only to lower ammonia when necessary?

Because he's not acting sick (he's still very frisky), I'm thinking it's a mouth injury. Will salting the tank be enough, or should I add First Aid drops to the tank? If I salt the tank as a first option, will the salt interfere with other interventions I might want to try if he doesn't heal?

Thanks so much for all of your help. I really appreciate your expertise and your patience. (Where do I go to learn these things?!?)

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Hi again.

"I bought ammonia chips, but haven't added them. Should I add them now as general maintenance, or only to lower ammonia when necessary? "

Just to clarify things for you:

Ammo-chips should not be used as part of general maintenance. They swallow and block the ammonia which your beneficial bacteria need to survive on. The result will be that you never develop a full cycle. We are only considering them right now because you are not fully cycled.

Ammo-chips should only be used in order to control toxicity whilst medicating, for the simple reason that meds and amm/nitrite can be a lethal combination. Many people use them to run a quarantine tank if they do not have a cycled filter, or, when running meds which destroy beneficial bacs.

Ammo-chips and salt cannot be used together as salt triggers the ammo-chips to discharge any ammonia they are holding.

So, you can either raise salt or run meds with amm-chips.

Once you have a fully cycled tank the issue of toxicity will no longer be an issue.

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Guest daviddmccullough

Hi!

I keep testing the water and it is now consistently coming up with 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and 20 ppm nitrates since yesterday, so I'm thinking the toxicity of the water is no longer an issue. I'm thinking about salting the water. He is not showing any signs of illness so I think the medicene could make situation worse. I think he hurt his mouth with the week-end feeder. However, I don't know how verify that (if that is even possbile) so I want to go with the least stressful treatment first. I know that when my throat and mouth hurt, I rinse with light saltwater. What do you all think?

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That's my thinking. Good water and salt at 0.2% for a few days may do it. You need to act fast if he is not eating.

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David have you tried feeding the peas? These are very soft when cooked; shell them, cut them into tiny pieces and let us know if he tries or succeeds in eating them. Goldfish generally find peas irresistable.

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Guest daviddmccullough

I haven't tried the peas recently but when I did, he didn't go near them. I'll try them again tonight.

He is currently at .1% salt. I'm going to add another .1% tonight.

Thank you all for all of your help. I have learned a lot from this site and I am glad to have this resource available.

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Guest daviddmccullough

Joe is at a .2% solution right now. He is still acting the same though. Very frisky and active. I tired to give him a little bit of flake food yesterday and he went for like he was going to eat it but he doesn't. It looks like he is trying to open his mouth. He keeps moving the lower part beneath his mouth like he is trying to open his mouth, but can't. It is frustrating watching him trying to eat, but can't. I'm going to give the .2% salt solution a day or two more to work and then try a new tactic.

Just some other random pieces of information because I don't know what could be helpful:

1. When I first gave him the algae wafer, I noticed a long, thin string of green exit his body a few hours after I gave it to him. That would suggest that he somehow managed to get some of that in him. Is that assumption correct?

2. Joe has always been a frisky fish. He has always loved to push up against the side of the tank with his mouth and shakes his head back and forth like he was saying, "no no no no no no no" and when he did this, he would open his mouth repeatedly like he really was saying, "no no no no no no no no". When he does this my wife and I call him Jim from the Vicar of Dibley :D . He is still doing this, but he is not opening up his mouth at all. Could this now be a sign of what is going on? He seems to only do it when we are near his tank. I would be concerned if he was doing it when no one was around, but he doesn't seem to be.

3. This entire problem started in Joe's old, smaller tank (and I am POSITIVE it had to do with that week-end feeder). Joe's new tank has some live plants in it that I put in while I was cycling the tank and before Joe went in there to live. I am assuming that the plants came with a hitchiker because it seems that Joe now has a pet snail (my wife and I have named it Sylvia). While we are happy about Joe's sense of responsibility, could the snail cause a problem? There seems to be only one.

I really want to thank Trinket and Pixiefish and everyone else who has given advice and helped. I know that no matter what happens to my little friend, many things have been tried to help him and his best interests have been kept in everyone's mind.

Thank you all!

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Oh dear, he's still not eating. I think the algae pellets/flakes are worth another shot because you saw some green poop after offering those which does mean he did eat some of that...

There are a few things that pop out to me with the new info. Rubbing on the sides or trying to nibble algae off the tank sides is aclassic way for fish to get mouth rot. Certain bacteria thrive in algae (green and brown) that can cause mouthrot Wiping down the sides of the tank occasionally can help reduce this chance.

The snail..snails are carriers of some diseases that goldies can catch. In future check all plants for snails and QT them before adding to the tank (Lol life is so easy in retrospect :rolleyes::D )

I am hoping so much he will eat soon and as long as he remains frisky there is a chance he will.

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