Re: NANFA-- parasite removal

Todd Crail (
Thu, 29 Jan 2004 11:15:38 -0500

This, of course, has gotten much more philisophical than practical :)

I think the biggest problem is the standard, and even the advanced home
aquarists don't have the resources to really accurately identify (or even
ballpark) what it is they're dealing with, and in such a way, don't have any
way to accurately identify what treatment to run. _Especially_ if they have
to do it with every animal that crosses their path! I think we all agree
that treatment "shots in the dark" are a bad idea for a variety of reasons.
Especially in the case of antibiotics where someone just dumps a drug at a
problem and there's no cause and effect. They get a cycled tank becuase the
biological got wiped out, dead fish because they also had to deal with
ammonia on
top of their current issues, and maybe stopped the bacteria, but more likely
didn't and only made a more resistant strain, etc...

I think what we need to do is approach it as "parasitism", which most people
in the aquarium hobby and even professionals call "disease", and I think
that's a misnomer. "General stress" is more inline with the disease concept
than the parasites are... That is to say, I don't know of any fish that's
ever conclusively died from an ich manifestation, but I do know a lot of
adult ich that starved to death when they lost their host to stress. A
different way of thinking :) And as a general rule, 98% of the cases deal
just fine with their parasitism if they're not receiving additional stress
created by their keepers.

This is not to say that an organism will _not_ be over run with parasites...
But if we scale back our terms and definitions to limit the amount of stress
our animals receive from system issues and _then_ determine if they're truly
being overrun by parasites (as is I feel the case with my particular
orangespot, where he came in like this) to the point where health has been
compromised. Then I think it's appropriate to seek identification and then
the appropriate treatment. At least you have a container around what you're

Why not until then? We don't know what effectively sterilizing our animals
without focus does to them (I'll get to this in a moment), and I doubt I'll
ever be convinced otherwise. Quarantine is a good way to screen out the
weak, wether their former parasites are slamming them, or wether their new
parasites after their "pickling" are slamming them, before they go into a
main system. So that is perhaps the best way to approach the problem if you
feel it's necessary to screen... And it is in a lot of cases where it's
nearly impossible to retrieve an overrun animal (in a large reef, large
exhibit, etc).

However, you'll be hard pressed to convince me that you've _truly_ removed
all potentials in quarantine. I often wonder if things like ich lie dormant
in the slime coat of fish, but are triggered into reproduction by some
chemical or hormone that is released when a fish is stressed, or when the
slime coat weakens. I'm in a debate with myself if they're always there.
Tanks that have been fine for months (outside the "life cycle" of a
particular parasite) without new additions or any changes besides neglect, a
heater burning up, etc etc still break out in ich!

Basically, I don't buy the parasite soup deal and extra water volume
flushing things away. I think that the extra critters come with the
territory, it just looks more awful and ominous at home because the _stress_
is much more focused and everyone gets exposed to both the stress and the
mainfestations. I have caught wild fish wasting, most likely from
gastrointestinal parasites, or super males that were weakened from months of
being dominant instead of healthy, that were covered in ich and fungus and
the things we see graphically in an aquarium where the whole system is

And back to that thing I was gonna get to... Again, we don't know what kind
of effect effectively sterilizing an animal will have, positive or negative.
In fact, I think progress will only be made in "war against germs" when we
start to get comfortable that things need to be balanced, instead of
sterile. My mom raised me as sterile as bleach, and now I'm allergic to
everything and catch a cold at the drop of a hat... Whereas my best friend
in high school and college was always that crud crusted kid, they always had
food left on their dishes after running the dishwasher (disgusting!), and
everything my mother prevented me from being (go figure I'm a crud crusted
adult ;) RARELY gets sick.

But more on target... Let's talk about something I had to live through that
is a definate parallel and may offer itself as an interesting anecdote to
our discussion. In 2000 I had a naaaaasty infection in my salivary glands
(Sialadenitis). They would clog, get fetid, and oh my did it hurt. So I do
what anyone would do... I go to the doctor. And what does the doctor do?
He wants to sterilize it, like any doctor would. So they put me on some
insane antibiotic (this ain't no Z pack babe-ee) for a month long treatment
so there's enough build up in a very tough place to deliver a antibiotic

Did it work? For about a month. Then it was back. What else was there
then? Because I had a wide open range of uncolonized territory in my guts
now because beneficial organisms were _also_ gone... A gastrointestinal
yeast infection that took two years to shake (and is moooost unpleasant),
severe irritative bowel syndrome, constipation, and the whole nine. My gut
problems left me stressed and wide open to the "cold of the week", and
pushed me into a severe depression because I couldn't seem to get better.
The worst of it lasted for nearly a year.

But I thought we were treating my mouth huh?

In the meantime, while fighting like mad with my colds, sore throats and
stuff, I found an interesting relief for my Sialadenitis... I was using the
"not conclusively proven to do anything, but I feel better when I take it"
thing of Vitamin C. I was sucking on chewables to get some relief for my
throat. And wouldn't you know it... The _tartness_ of the Vitamin C helped
to purge my salivary glands. Sourball candies and lemon juice works too.
Go figure.

What I think we need to do is find the "vitamin c" before we go and get
chemicals involved. :) I doubt that fish are any different, and we don't
know which critters are beneficial at certain levels and which are not.
It's not like life has evolved in a sterile environment, although we seem to
be trying our damnedist to make it that way (and miserable failing).

And yes, this is something I consider with the more whole systems that I
seem to be particular to lately. I would say that more organisms will have
the ability to complete life cycles as the systems get larger and more
biodiverse. But what you have to remember is... Parasites have parasites
too. Maybe if we stopped trying to keep sterile systems, we'd also have in
place stop gap organisms that keep everyone else in check too?

Some food for thought...

----- Original Message -----
From: "Nick Zarlinga" <>
To: <>
Sent: Thursday, January 29, 2004 7:14 AM
Subject: RE: NANFA-- parasite removal

> Generally speaking I would agree with you, however we are sort of creating
> situation where our fish are essentially being kept alive in a parasite
> soup. In the wild, the bugs can scatter with currents etc, and there is
> usually an unlimited supply of new water to dilute the concentration of
> to fish. In the aquarium, we are creating a condition where the bugs can
> disperse, therefore making it easier to find a host. We are giving the
> parasite just what it wants, lots of chances to attach in a very small
> amount of space. So, although there are stressors that can cause an
> outbreak, they are sort of given the advantage by us, unintentionally.
> is why in a perfect world, we quarantine any and all new animals before
> go into our "exhibit" tanks. If the fish has some kind of "disease", we
> take a swab, identify it under a scope, then treat accordingly to
> it first. Of course, this is my idealism coming though again ;)
> Nick Zarlinga
> Aquarium Biologist
> Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
> 216.661.6500 ext 4485
> ><)> -----Original Message-----
> ><)> From:
> ><)> On Behalf
> ><)> Of Todd Crail
> ><)> Sent: Wednesday, January 28, 2004 9:37 PM
> ><)> To:
> ><)> Subject: Re: NANFA-- parasite removal
> ><)>
> ><)>
> ><)> I'd also look into what system stress had
> ><)> compromised formerly "stable" fish
> ><)> to take a beating from a recently introduced
> ><)> external parasite they would
> ><)> normally slime right off. While I'm beginning to
> ><)> change my view on
> ><)> gastrointestinal parasites and what role they play
> ><)> in fish health...
> ><)> External parasites on everybody has always proven
> ><)> there's a system problem
> ><)> which I've found is best solved by correction.
> ><)> Might want to check into
> ><)> that too. pH? Nitrate? Stray Volts? Low Dissolved
> ><)> O2/High organic content?
> ><)>
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