Has your fish broken out in white spots?
It might just be Ich.
This is a nasty disease. And if left untreated, it can kill your fish.
Today, I will teach you all about Ich, including how to identify and treat it. This guide might just save the life of your fish!
- What is Ich?
- How does Ich get inside your aquarium?
- How do you identify Ich? (symptoms)
- How do you treat Ich?</l
- The dangers of Ich and secondary infections
- How do you prevent Ich?
What is Ich?
Ich is one of the most common aquarium diseases.
In fact, Ich is so commonly experienced that many tropical fish hosts believe it to be found in every single aquarium.
So, what is Ich exactly?
To put it simply, Ich is a parasite that appears on the body, fins and gills of fish. If left untreated, Ich will eventually kill your sick fish.
Ich is easily transferred from one tank to another by fish, invertebrates, plants, decorations or even maintenance equipment like your gravel vacuum or nets.
These protozoan parasites are small. Real small. So small, in fact, that you need a microscope to see them…
Lucky for you, you don’t need a microscope to tell if your freshwater aquarium fish is infested with ich. There are some obvious symptoms that I will cover further down this guide.
If caught early, Ich is very treatable, and many fish make a full recovery.
What makes Ich unique among fish diseases is that it has a life cycle.
1. Parasite stage
The Ich burrows into fish, feeding on the skin and tissue, causing irritation.
As it burrows into the flesh of your fish, it causes a wound. Your fish tries to protect itself and a white, crusty wall seals the Ich in. This wall looks like a white spot.
Many people think the white spot itself is Ich, but it’s actually more like a scab. The Ich hides behind it.
While burrowed beneath the skin, the Ich are protected from any medications you add to your aquarium.
This is the stage when most fish keepers first become aware that their aquarium is infested with Ich – the tell-tale white spots that cover your fish make it easy to identify.
2. Intermediate stage
Once the Ich matures, it bursts through the white crust and floats around looking for a hard surface to attach to – generally the bottom of your aquarium.
The white crust that covers the wound of your fish falls off, leaving an open wound. At this stage, your fish are prone to infection or fungus. Yep, it’s possible for fish to have more than one disease at once.
3. Reproductive stage
Once on the bottom of your tank, the Ich seals itself in a tomont, which is essentially an egg.
Inside the egg, the Ich divides itself into hundreds or even thousands of babies called theronts.
Because the egg is sealed, the babies inside are protected from medication.
4. Infectious stage
When the egg hatches, the theronts are released into the aquarium water. They swim around freely, hunting for fish to burrow into.
The babies can only survive for a few days. If they don’t find an infected fish, they die.
It is during this stage that Ich is vulnerable to medication.
So, how long does all this take?
Well, it all depends on the temperature of your tank.
The higher the temperature, the faster the life cycle.
- 70˚F (21˚C) – Up to 18 days
- 85˚F (29˚C) – Up to 6 days
As you see, the temperature of your tank greatly affects the life cycle of Ich. Generally in a tropical tank, the lifecycle generally takes 10 to 12 days. Raising the temperature is one of the tools you can use to rid your tank of Ich – I’ll cover this in later in the guide.
FishLab Note: Good news! The following aquarium creatures are generally considered immune to Ich:
- Invertebrates – e.g., Shrimp
- Gastropods – e.g., Snails
- Amphibians – e.g., Frogs
- Reptiles – e.g., Turtles
However, that doesn’t mean they can’t “carry” an Ich infestation into your freshwater tank. Use a quarantine tank to avoid this!
How does Ich get inside your aquarium?
There are a few topics in fishkeeping that divide the community. How Ich first gets inside your fish tank is one of these debates.
There are two theories as to how Ich first appears…
1. It’s transferred from tank to tank – Ich is highly contagious and easily transferred from tank to tank. It can hitchhike on a newly bought fish, plant or invertebrate when you add it to your aquarium.
2. It’s always in your tank – Ich is so common that many believe that Ich exists in every tank and only infects your fish when conditions are right.
There still has not been 100% agreement among the fishkeeping community as to which argument is correct.
Not one to take sides? Then, I have good news for you…
It doesn’t really matter which theory is right!
You see, the methods of identifying, treating and preventing Ich from infecting your fish are still the same.
So, leave the two sides to fight it out over who is right. You just worry about the important things like protecting your fish from Ich.
How do you identify Ich? (Symptoms)
Most fish keepers first identify Ich when their fish breaks out in white spots, randomly scattered across the body, fins and gills. The white specks almost look like someone sprinkled salt over your fish.
At first, it may just be a single spot…
On its own, a single spot does not confirm that your fish is suffering from Ich. You see, many other diseases such as fungus and columnaris can start out as a white-colored spot.
However, if more and more white spots appear, it’s almost certainly Ich.
These spots can be seen without magnification and can grow into larger white patches. If untreated, things can get pretty bad…
In the very early stages, these white spots are most noticeable on clear fins.
If your fish has big fins with bright colors, then these white spots can be considerably more difficult to notice.
The same goes for fish with spotted patterns…
These spots led to Ich being commonly referred to as white spot disease.
Unfortunately, in some cases, Ich may only be present on the gills and mouth – not on the skin or fins. The bad news is that Ich in these areas is very difficult to identify for someone who has never battled it before.
Fortunately, you can use other symptoms to diagnose your fish as having Ich. These symptoms affect your fish’s behavior.
If Ich establishes itself in the gills, it will make it more difficult for your fish to breathe. Because of this, your fish’s gills will move much faster than normal, as they try harder to breathe.
You may even notice your fish move to the top of your aquarium where there is more oxygen or even gasp for air at the surface of your tank.
As the Ich infestation progresses, your fish will become lazier and move slower than they normally would.
You may even notice your fish lose color. As the infection progresses, fish often refuse to eat.
Scratching is the final clue that your fish has Ich because those white spots can be itchy. Unfortunately, your fish doesn’t have hands to give himself a good scratch. Instead, he will brush against objects to make the itching stop, which can result in scrapes and damaged skin.
While some species of fish are more prone to Ich than others, such as tetra, no fish is immune to it.
I also point out that if you notice Ich on one fish in your tank, then it’s safe to assume that they all have it. Ich generally shows up first on the most sensitive or stressed fish, but due to how contagious Ich is, your other fish already have it. It’s simply too early to identify.
It’s important that you correctly identify Ich and not a disease with similar symptoms. Many Ich treatments do not cure other diseases.
Not sure that you are actually dealing with Ich? Ask a member of an online aquarium forum. Simply sign up and post a pic, and others will help you diagnose what is going on with your fish. I sometimes do this myself when I want a second opinion!
How do you treat Ich?
Have you diagnosed your fish with Ich?
Well, the next step is getting rid of it.
Use FishLab’s four-step process to eliminate Ich in your aquarium, fast!
This treatment process cures your fish and aquarium of Ich at the same time.
Carefully read each of the four steps below. Incorrectly treating Ich can harm or even kill your fish.
1. Check your water quality
As with any disease, to see the best results when fighting Ich, you want the water in your tank to be pristine.
You should already be regularly testing your water with a good aquarium test kit. If you aren’t, now is the perfect time to start.
So, grab a test kit and check the following:
Not only will good water quality allow your fish to recover faster, but it can also impact how certain Ich medications affect your fish.
If anything looks out of the ordinary, you want to fix it before moving forward with Ich treatment.
Step 2. Get your fish eating
Note: If your fish are eating normally, you can skip this step. However, I suggest reading it just in case your fish refuse food in the future.
Many fish that suffer from Ich refuse to eat. Not exactly a good thing when trying to save your fish.
If your fish isn’t eating, she will become weak and less likely to overcome her battle with Ich.
Fortunately, there is a natural solution that gets even the most stubborn fish eating again…
Garlic is used to stimulate appetite, meaning it makes your fish want to eat. It can make all the difference to an Ich-infested fish that refuses to eat.
So, how do you feed your fish garlic?
One popular solution is to swap your fish over to a garlic-infused diet. New Life Spectrum Thera-A is a potent, garlic-based fish food. Not only is it suitable for carnivores, omnivores and herbivores, but it also contains more garlic than other fish food brands. Remember to choose the correct size for your fish! It’s available in five different pellet sizes, from small to large.
Once you beat Ich, swap back to your fish’s usual food – there is no need to feed your fish garlic if they are disease-free
Have fish with a specific diet? Use a concentrated garlic solution instead. Garlic Guard is designed specifically for aquariums – soak your fish’s normal meal in the solution before feeding it to your fish.
Alternatively, you could always mix up your own garlic infusion. It’s a little time consuming, but it will save you money. All you need is a medium-sized bulb of garlic.
- Peel the garlic and cut the ends off each clove.
- Microwave the cloves for 10 seconds.
- Cut the cloves lengthwise into thin strips.
- Place the strips in a cup of dechlorinated water.
- Let sit at room temperature for 12 hours or longer for a stronger solution.
The longer you soak it, the stronger it becomes. This mix can be refrigerated for up to two weeks.
And, there you have it! Three different ways that you can get your fish to eat garlic to give them the strength to fight off Ich.
Note: This step can be skipped. However, in my experience, it will greatly improve the chances of your fish making a full recovery from Ich.
As a side note, garlic is a external parasite-fighting superfood… And, Ich is a parasitic disease.
You see, garlic contains allicin, a compound that not only reduces inflammation but may even boost the immune system of your fish.
Other scientific studies have confirmed garlic’s ability to help combat Ich.
However, on its own, feeding your fish garlic won’t rid your tank of Ich. You need to combine it with the next two methods…
Step 3. Raise your aquarium’s temperature
Now, as I discussed earlier in the guide, you only have a very narrow window when Ich is vulnerable to medication – which is why treating Ich can be so difficult.
The good news?
You can make this window roll around sooner by increasing the temperature of your aquarium. 86˚F (30˚C) is the sweet spot.
Now, the trick is to increase the temperature slooooooooowly.
Fish are sensitive to rapid changes in temperature. If you raise it too quickly, you risk killing your fish. Check out FishLab’s guide to aquarium temperatures for more info.
So instead of adjusting the water in your tank straight to 86˚F (30˚C), increase it 2˚F (1˚C) each hour.
Regularly check the water temperature with a good aquarium thermometer to ensure that you are not cooking your fish.
Note: This step is less suitable for overstocked tanks, tanks with poor circulation or heat-sensitive fish. If your tank checks any of these boxes and you don’t feel comfortable increasing the temperature, please skip this step.
Well, as the temperature of your aquarium rises, the water in your tank will hold less oxygen. This is particularly problematic if your tank has poor circulation or is overstocked, where oxygen is already low.
In these cases, raising the temperature may cause problems like labored breathing and rapid breathing. Not something you want if Ich has infected the gills of your fish.
Fortunately, this can be overcome by adding an aquarium air pump and airstone or increasing the flow on your filter. This will agitate the surface of your aquarium, improving the amount of oxygen available to your fish.
As for heat-sensitive fish such as goldfish, only adjust the temperature as high as they will tolerate. Any increase in temperature will help shorten the lifecycle of Ich – giving you a better opportunity to get rid of it for good.
Don’t worry, you can still beat Ich without raising the temperature, but it will take a little longer.
Step 4: Choose your Ich medicine
With your fish fed, and the temperature raised, it’s now time to get rid of your Ich problem once and for all.
To do that, all that is left to do is add Ich medication to your tank.
Oh, and before I continue, I just want to touch on using half doses of Ich medication. My general thought is: Don’t do it!
Using a half dose will just make it weaker to the point where it may not cure Ich. It’s like when you are sick, you don’t take a half dose of medication, do you? Nah, you take the full amount.
As always, follow the directions closely when treating and watch your fish like a hawk for the first two hours after adding any medication. If you notice any adverse reactions, do an immediate water change and discontinue use.
Warning: Many beginners kill their fish by overdosing their tank with Ich medication. Ich medication is dosed to the amount of water inside your tank. And, that’s where mistakes are made…
You see, your tank will never actually hold the amount of water it claims. By the time you factor in your substrate, plants, decorations and even fish, there will be considerably less room for water. Please keep this in mind when determining how much Ich medication to add to your tank.
|Active Ingredients||Malachite green, formalin|
|Scaleless fish safe||Yes|
From my experience, a combination of malachite green and formalin is the most powerful way of getting rid of Ich.
But be warned, it’s like a nuke.
This product will stain – it’s an unavoidable downside of malachite green. It will stain your seals, airline tubing and even some decorations. It will also dye your water green during treatment, but this isn’t permanent and soon fades with water changes.
Obviously, this is less of a problem if you use Ich-X in a quarantine or hospital tank.
Despite its ability to stain, Ich-X is my go-to solution for treating Ich.
I have personally used Ich-X for over eight years and know many independent fish stores that also use it to treat fish for disease prior to adding them to their tanks – Even for sensitive, scaleless fish.
The reason? It’s darn effective.
Just make sure you do the 1/3 water change before adding each dose. As per the instructions, it’s a vital part of the treatment. I personally use a good gravel vacuum when I do the water change to help suck the Ich eggs out of the substrate.
Now, I must add that any Ich medication that combines malachite green and formalin can be used instead. Off the top of my head, Kordon Rid Ich Plus and Mardel Quick Cure also come to mind. However, given the success I have experienced with Ich-X, I would be hesitant to recommend anything else.
If you really don’t want to experience the staining, then I have an alternate solution for you…
2. Seachem ParaGuard
|Active Ingredients||Glutaraldehyde, malachite green|
|Scaleless fish safe||Yes|
While Seachem ParaGuard does contain malachite green, when used at the suggested dose, staining should not occur. This is likely because it contains less malachite green than other Ich cures.
Another reason many fish keepers choose ParaGuard over Ich-X is because they claim it has fewer side effects to sensitive fish.
Even so, Seachem themselves suggest starting out with a ¼ dose before slowly working your way up to a full dose for fish like loaches and catfish.
While it may not be my go-to Ich cure, ParaGuard is still undeniably effective. And, if you are looking for a non-staining Ich medicine for your display tank, it’s a very viable option.
As an added bonus, Paraguard can also be used to treat secondary infections that arise from an ich infestation.
|Scaleless fish safe||No|
Salt is perhaps the cure I most often see recommended both online and in real life – it’s hugely popular as an Ich treatment.
I don’t share the same feelings, however. In fact, I think people are too eager to recommend salt as a remedy for Ich.
This might surprise you, especially given that salt is cheap, commonly available and very effective at treating Ich.
So, why don’t I recommend it more highly?
Well, many fish species of freshwater fish hate salt. Cory, loaches, livebearers and koi, for example, are all well-known for their salt intolerance – the amount of salt needed to kill Ich can also kill these fish.
In fact, long-term use of salt can have a negative impact on fish due to the fact that it interferes with osmoregulation, which is how your fish balances minerals in its body.
On the flipside, certain fish like cichlids and goldfish can respond positively when salt is added to their tank – and for these fish, there is little reason why you shouldn’t use salt.
And now, we get to why I cannot recommend salt for everyone…
Only you know if salt is a good Ich solution for your tank.
You should only use salt as an Ich cure after heavily researching the salt tolerance of your fish. If you are confident that your fish will respond positively to a salt treatment, then go right ahead…
But if you have any doubts, I suggest using a different Ich remedy.
This wraps up my section on treatment. I’m sure many of you reading this have your favorite way of curing Ich. If so, stick with what works for you. But if you have never battled Ich before, following the above four steps gives you the best opportunity to beat it on your first try.
However, just because you have eliminated Ich in your tank, it doesn’t mean your fish are safe just yet – which brings me to my next point…
The dangers of Ich and secondary infections
Fish can catch more than one disease at a time. In fact, by coming down with Ich, your fish is actually more likely to be afflicted with another disease.
Because your fish is already in a weakened state from both stress and Ich, your fish is much more likely to catch other diseases than he normally would.
For example, this platy is suffering from columnaris of the mouth, which came on while being treated for Ich…
This is referred to as a secondary infection.
And let me tell you, battling two or more diseases at once sucks. For you and your fish. Not only will you need different types of medication to combat the other diseases, but your fish’s chances of recovery greatly diminish.
This is why it’s so important to get your water quality sorted out in the beginning. See Step 1 of FishLab’s Ich elimination process. It helps reduce the chances of a secondary infection.
It is for this reason that you should monitor your water and fish closely during treatment. It allows you to quickly identify and eliminate any problems that may arise.
Even after you have eliminated Ich, your fish are still prone to other bacterial infection and fungal infection – so watch your fish closely in the weeks after treatment, until your fish have returned to full health.
While this may all sound like doom and gloom, recovery from Ich is very common. In fact, it’s one of the easier diseases to cure. If caught early, most fish make a full recovery.
Even so, the best way to beat Ich is to stop it from affecting your fish in the first place, which brings me to my next point.
How do you prevent Ich?
In my opinion, the best way to prevent Ich is to quarantine all the fish you buy before adding them to your tank…
Because that fish you just bought has been on one heck of a journey. Many fish we keep in aquariums come from the other side of the world. Even the ones that are bred locally make their way through multiple tanks before coming home with you.
During this journey, your fish will have plenty of opportunities to encounter Ich. While your fish may look good and healthy, she may already be infected with the early stages of Ich.
If you add this fish to your tank now, you risk everything in your tank being infected with Ich.
If you are serious about aquariums and plan on keeping fish for years to come, you want to set up a quarantine tank.
A quarantine tank is essentially an in-between tank for your fish to hang out in before you add him to your main tank. Most fish keepers quarantine their fish for 2 to 4 weeks.
During this time, the fish is treated for parasites with a copper sulfate solution like this one.
Cupramine will eradicate any Ich and other parasites while in quarantine.
Now, you may be wondering why I didn’t recommend Cupramine in the four-step Ich removal process. Well, I would be hesitant to add copper to a main tank because it’s toxic to shrimp, snails and even some plants. Plus, once treatment is finished, it needs to be removed from your tank with chemical filtration.
Once your fish has been monitored and treated for a few weeks, you can add her to your main tank without the risk of introducing Ich and other parasites.
Now, I understand a quarantine tank isn’t going to be a practical solution for everyone. But in my opinion, it’s the best way to prevent parasites, fungal infection and bacterial infection from entering your main tank. It can also be used as a hospital tank when not being used as a quarantine tank.
The same goes for live plants, which should be treated before being added to your tank.
However, if you like to play things risky and skip the quarantine tank, there are other ways to prevent Ich…
Ich commonly infects fish that are stressed and in a weakened state.
So, If you eliminate stress, you can make your fish Ich-safe, right?
As if you needed another reason to stop stress, it’s the number one cause of death in fish.
Fortunately, keeping your aquarium stress-free is darn simple. In fact, much of it comes down to good housekeeping – things you should already be doing!
- Cycling your aquarium
- Not overstocking your tank
- Stocking compatible fish and invertebrates
- Testing your water quality
- Keeping water parameters stable
- Cleaning and maintaining your aquarium
- Performing water changes
- Not overfeeding your fish
Not too hard, right? These simple tasks will keep your fish happy and healthy.
I know those white spots covering your fish from mouth to tail might look intimidating. But don’t worry, Ich does not have to be a death sentence.
If caught early and with proper treatment, your fish should be on the road to recovery in no time.
If it’s too late for treatment, you may have no other solution other than to euthanize your fish. I know it can be hard, but it may be the only way to stop your fish from suffering.
Many fish keepers consider Ich to be a rite of passage. If you are keeping fish, it’s only a matter of time before you need to overcome it.
And now that you have read this guide, you know exactly what to do.
How do you treat an outbreak of Ich? Let me know in the comments below!
I have gone through your contents about ICH infection .
Your recommendation is ICH-X which is a combination of Malachite green and Formalin. Yes, This is the best combination against ICH and other bacterial diseases.
My concern is this combination( malachite green and formalin) kills the nitrifying bacteria in Bio-filter and other beneficial bacteria? Is it harmful for biofilter?
Your comments and advise on this matter will be highly appreciated.
Ideally you would want to quarantine your fish and treat the hospital tank. However, in hobby use, Ich-X will not harm the beneficial bacteria in your tank. Just follow the instructions. In my time, I have first hand seen over 10 tanks treated with Ich-X and not once did the cycle crash.
If you are asking about use in your wide-scale commercial aquaculture applications, the answer may be different. Unfortunately, I have no experience using this product for aquaculture.
I think it is better to use separate hospital tank for avoiding the risk of killing nitrifying bacteria.
In Indoor large scale commercial system, they normally use formalin ( malachite green is not allowed in some countries) in very light dilution . In that case, they keep the specific infected tank disconnected from the main biofilter system and then treat the whole tank with formalin for 3 days. After that they add fresh water and drain repeatedly for flushing out the trace of formalin. Then they connect the tank again with main filtration system.
It is still unclear that whether formalin or malachite green has any effect on nitrifying bacteria. I got many confusing opinion in different fish blogs and other sources in internet. Since these are anti-bacterial agent, it may harm nitrifying bacterias .
Thanks again for your advise.
Okay, that’s where the commercial system is a little different. You treat it for 3 days in the same water, correct? In a hobby tank, we would change about 30% of the water before adding a full dose (about 5ml for every 10 gallons). This water change + dose is repeated every 24 hours until you see ich symptoms diminish.
Unfortunately, there isn’t really any studies done on the malachite green – formalin combo done with aquarium specific bacteria in mind. I definitely agree with using a hospital tank to treat it, but I have never seen an ammonia spike in a display tank after dosing, which would normally indicate a beneficial bacteria die off. However, I can only go off my only experiences and 10+ tanks isn’t really a good sample size to come to any kind of conclusive result.
I appreciate you elaborating on how the process is done in commercial systems, I find it absolutely fascinating!
Thanks for everything, Iftekhar. I wish you all the best!
My goldfishes are now more or less stable. No new mortality. Ammonia level is now between .5 to 1 ppm. I think bacterial cycle already started.
I want to to add few cheaper feeder goldfish to complete the cycle. I know feeder gold fishes are not good quality and may have disease .
What treatment should I do before stock them in to the tank? how long and what medicine should I use for a general treatment as precaution.
I think the best way to cycle your tank would be to work out how much ammonia your additions will produce and dose manually. It beats more fish dying, just to finish a cycle.
After all, it’s not just the ammonia you have to worry about but nitrites too. The whole process could still take another week or two – that’s a long time for your fish to be exposed to these toxic chemicals.
The problem with feeder fish, in addition to parasites and bacteria is that they are inbred and have their own health problems, so these will likely die in greater number since they are not supposed to have a long life (they are supposed to be food after all) it’s possible they won’t survive through to the end of the cycle.
I normally just use ich-X for general treatment, but this is here in the USA. I also may change treatment if I have a suspicion that fish might have other specific problems. You may be facing different parasites and disease due to your location. You’ll have to look closely at your feeder fish, speak with the supplier and try a get a better idea of what they may carry. Then treat accordingly. Again, I am unfamiliar with doing treatments on such a large scale, for a commercial application. What works for me, might not work for you.
I wish I could be more help here Iftekhar
Nice article ..thanks
Need help got a saltwater gray anglefish was in qt tank with .50 copper 30 day eats like a pig runs around 90 miles an hour…never got any spots..front fins started to get smaller and it’s one eye started to get cloudy… it’s in the dt tank now…feeding it food with metroplex and focus…think that will work? Thanks
There can be a variety of reasons for cloudy eyes, water quality, vitamin a deficiency, bacterial infection or even a symptom of another disease. If it’s a vitamin A deficiency then a change in diet can certainly fix it. You’ll have to do your own research here.
Now, after 40 days, 45 goldfish in 250 liter water are in very good health , Ammonia is 0.20 and nitrite is 0 . My bio-filter working very nice and tank is fully cycled. fish growth is excellent .. from 7gm to 20gm is just 40 days. I can now think about my fish growing project in commercial way … high density ( my target is 1 fish per 2 liter of water) , faster growth and good health .. The key is biofilter.
Thanks for your advises .
That sounds promising. Congratulations on achieving your target!
Hi, been treating ick for 5 days with another product. I skipped one day. Two angels have died, and the other seems to be getting more spots. She is eating but the others did too. I ordered the meds you recommend. Is it too late to save my angel?
If they are eating and acting normal, despite the spots then it’s a good sign. Unfortunately, I cannot say whether or not your angel can be saved. I have my fingers crossed they pull through!
I have been battling Ich for 3 weeks with Cupermine in my display tank since it was impractical fo me to catch all my fishes instead of just moving one coral and an anemone into another tank which I cycled.
So it has been 3 weeks now with cupermine in a very stable level of .5 to .6 level as Cupermine instructed. However, I find most of my fished are well but it seems the Ich is still there even with Cupermine. It seems I see white spots then a few day it come back. I see other fished flashing/scratching but no visible signs of white spots. I am planning to continue cupermine for aother 2 weeks and see what happen. I will also does Prazipro.. I see it is a good product that can be mixed with Cupermnine.
My question is, how can my fished who are win copper for 3 weeks still scratching/fashing and why does Ich still come back event though I have medication.
I would like to ask some advise in what should be my next steps.
This guide is focused on freshwater ich.
This guide deals with saltwater:
Also, marine ich can be confused with velvet, so make sure you it’s the right disease you are treating.
Mr. Ian Please help! Im battling through an ich outbreak and high nitrite levels at the same time (my bad since my tank is borderline overcrowded). Will medicate right after a do a hefty water change. My question is …how often and to what percent should I perform water changes while medicating and treating ich? Your help will be greatly appreciated! I feel so bad and foremost guilty for putting my fish through this, its so sad and the feeling of impotence is nerve wrecking!
I have outlined my directions for water changes for Ich-X in this guide. For other remedies, you’ll need to follow their specific instructions. With that said, even if you cure ich, you are not going to fix the root cause, which in this case is an overstocked tank – it’s likely more problems will arise in the future until this is resolved.
Hey I just got my fish and I have a question can Afarcain dwarf frogs get ice because I don’t want dopey to die.
Hi New guy,
Are you sure that it’s not just coloring? It’s not unsual for ADF to have a spotted coloring. I didn’t think African Dwarf Frogs could get ich.
No I was just wondering
Hi agin there are neon tetras I’m starting to,get desperate
Hi New guy,
I’m not sure what you are asking?
I have an unheated freshwater tank that stays at 78 degrees. (That’s my room temperature & I have spray foam insulation in my house, so it stays pretty steady). I have 3 Kuhli Loaches, 1 panda cory, 6 hatchets, 2 guppies & 7 neon tetras in a 20-gal tank.
My hatchets came down with obvious ich & my lfs sold me ich-X & said to treat for 5-7 days & that I didn’t really need to raise the temperature. I just finished that, & it seemed to really work, but now 2 of my hatchets are hanging out by the filter & they have white spots above their gills but it doesn’t look like salt like the previous ich.
Do you think 7 days was long enough to treat the tank at 78 degrees? I did 30 % water changes every day & took out the carbon from my filter. My tank is fully cycled & always has low nitrates.
I lost 2 cories before this & my last one was on death’s door but seemed to get a lot better with the medication. (More active, eating again). I think I may have had ich for a long time but it was hard to identify in the cories. Anyway, sorry this is so rambling, but I just want you to have all the info & I want to help my fish.
It’s hard to say, it’s possible that 7 days was too short and your fish are re-infected. It’s also possible that this is a new disease. Unfortunately you will have to use your best judgement here.
My fish shows no sign of white spots except a few on the wen which I believe is wen growth but he is flashing, darting occasionally with some tears on tail and sits at the bottom of the tank in the evening. No bullying that I have seen. Active in the day and eating well. The only other symptom I can see is hes gradually developing black areas on his wen and tail but they very much look like natural color change since he is a red and black Oranda. I thought mayby black spot/smudge but again just not sure. I suspect something is wrong but not sure how to treat since I can’t really confirm what is causing these symptoms. My tank parameters are genrally good; ammonia 0, nitrites 0 and nitrates between 30 and 40 (tap water is 30). I complete a wc every 3-4 days and only have 2 small fish in a 40 gallon tank.Any ideas? I would paste a pic but I dont see a way to do that. Thank you in advance for your response.
Unfortunately, I am not a veterinarian and am unqualified to individually diagnose fish. I wouldn’t rule out bullying just yet, as we cannot watch our tanks 24/7. It could also be a disease, but based on the information provided, it would be difficult to point you in a particular direction for further reading. I would suggest posting your picture to an aquarium forum, where other fishkeepers will be able to help!
Are you sure that salt actually KILLS ich?
I see I could have worded this better, when used in conjunction with heat, it can help treat ich. Certain strains can be killed with salt alone, but these are uncommon and it is theorized that ich has developed a “resistance” to salt over the years. Although as I stated in the article, I don’t recommend it at all. I suggest using medication instead. Thanks for pointing this out!
Hello Ian. I have read several of your articles and have learned a great deal from them. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and passion for fish. I believe I have diagnosed an outbreak of Ich in my fairly new tank.It is in the early stage, (only a few white spots at this point), but they are beginning to pop up on a couple of my other fish. I think maybe 5-7 spots over 3 or 4 fish at this point. It was introduced by a recently added group of fish, particularly an Blue Gourami. I know, I need a quarantine tank. I think it’s finally time to get one. This is not my first encounter with Ich being introduced by adding fish to my tank. I will be starting treatment for the Ich soon, but I was wondering if I can use ICH-X while I’m dosing my tank with Pimafix and Melafix? I have been treating a female Molly that has a fungal infection. I’m 4 days into a 7 day treatment with that. Are they safe to use together or should I wait until I’m finished treating my Molly? My ICH-X won’t be here for another day and a half (Saturday), so I can’t start my medication for the ICH until Saturday anyway. Any thoughts are appreciated. Thank you!
Unfortunately, this is more of a judgement call that only you can make – you’ll need to factor in which of the two diseases is more pressing.
If it were me, I would stop melafix/pimafix treatment when the Ich-X arrives. My thoughts behind this are two:
Firstly, ich is often more dangerous than a fungal infection, especially if it gets to the gills. Then there is the fact that ich-x will treat certain fungal issues. Fungal issues are a pain in the butt to diagnose, with their being many strains, but it’s possible that the ich-x will help kill it off too.
Wishing your fish a speedy recovery!
Hi Ian I have a tank dedicated to African Clawed Frogs and it has feeder guppies, ghost shrimp, and a mystery snail. I believe most if not all of my guppies have ich. I am unable to find any suitable sources to know if I should let the ich run its course or attempt to treat it, as I know a lot of ich medications can harm my frogs. I do have aquarium salt though and was wondering if I should remove my snail to another tank during treatment to keep him safe?
I am primarily a fish kinda guy and am not overly experienced with ACFs. I certainly wouldn’t advise letting the ich run it’s course – you are leaving the survival of your fish entirely up to chance, and I’ll be honest, I have not seen a whole lot of untreated fish survive ich – in my opinion the odds are slim.
If possible, your best bet would be to isolate your frogs and snail and treat the entire tank separately.
More bumps in the road for me! My water chemistry settled down almost right away, but then I awoke this morning to a few of the dreaded white spots on the molly.
I knew the “rescue fish” had been treated for ich a couple months prior to when I acquired them – the concerned roommate of their former neglectful owner didn’t know much about fish, but she at least noticed the spots and poured some random ich medication in there to save them. So I was sort of expecting it to return one day…
I already have some Ich-X on the shelf. I was going to buy more water conditioner this week anyway, but now I’m rush ordering some non-sulfinate water conditioner to use along with it. It’ll be here Tuesday and then I can start medicating. In the meantime I’m going to run out an buy a heater so I can crank up the temperature, and do a bunch of water changes. (I actually haven’t had need of a heater before now, it’s hotter than Hades here – once or twice I actually ran the air conditioner extra solely to keep the aquarium below 80 degrees. Usually it stays at a nice constant 77-78 with no effort on my part, though.)
I also ripped the carbon out of my filter cartridge. Or rather, I ripped the floss off the cartridge and stuffed it into a mesh bag with some fresh filter floss, in case there’s anything good living on it.
If there is anything else I can do for the fish while I wait for the water conditioner, please let me know. Sigh!
Hi again Shea,
Oh no! These fish are really making you jump through hoops. You have incredible patience.
I highly recommend adding a heater regardless, so this was a good investment. It’s less about “keeping your fish warm” and more about keeping the water temperature constant (quickly rising and falling temperature can lead to stress which in turn leads to sickness) At least something good is coming out of this!
It sounds like you are doing everything that you can to save your fish and unfortunately, I don’t have any extra pointers for you. Just be mindful that given the terrible conditions these fish have been through, even if you do everything right, there is still a possibility that they succumb to the disease. This is perhaps the most frustrating thing about playing fish doctor.
I hope they pull through!
I’ve been lucky enough to have a consistent temperature thus far. I figured by the time September was wrapping up I’d need a heater but I was going to try to coast a little longer without. It doesn’t vary by more than one or two degrees during a single 24-hour period, even with the large water changes. I’ve popped out of bed at 4:00 AM a few times (the coolest part of the night) to make sure it wasn’t swinging around during the night while I wasn’t looking. Good time to walk my dog, too.
I’m counting less than a dozen small spots total between all the fish, almost all of those on fins, so I think I caught it immediately. I definitely don’t think the spots were there yesterday morning during the previous fish headcount. I think they’ll be okay, as for me I was looking forward to less water changes but I guess it wasn’t meant to be! :/
I appreciate the advice in this article about salt, I found a lot of advice telling me to dump salt in there no matter what and that really didn’t seem right for species of fish I have. Thanks man. 🙂
It sounds like you might have caught it just in time. Let me know if you need any more pointers or advice!
Ooo, I have a question already, I can’t find a solid answer anywhere. How many times at minimum should I dose the Ich-X? I should be able to start treating them today.
My fish have been tolerating 86-88 degrees without any complaints. It makes them a little zippy but they’re breathing fine. All of the existing ich cysts fell off overnight once I raised the temperature. I’ve only seen 4 or 5 new spots this morning,
The bottle has no directions in that department and advice around the internet is more or less “treat for x number of days after your fish are no longer visibly infested.” At this rate my fish might not be visibly infested for very long. I want to make sure the ich is good and dead, but I also don’t want to dose them any more than strictly necessary. Advice from someone who has treated their fish with Ich-X before would be very much appreciated.
Good question. I dose according to the temperature setting. Since ich have different life cycles at different temperatures, you want to dose for a full life cycle. At your temp, the life cycle will be 3-6 days. So dosing for 6 days should do the trick.
Six days it is then. I hope they tolerate the medicine well! Thank you so much.
Glad I could Help. I hope it all goes smoothly!
Hello again already. I have a bit of a judgement call to make. I have dosed the Ich-X twice now at the recommended amount of 1 tsp. per 10 gallons. Between sand, decor and the lowered waterline, I calculated that I’ve got about 50 gallons in there right now, so 5 tsps.
I don’t think the glass catfish have responded especially well to the medicine. They are looking more opaque and one of them is about as milk-colored from stress as when I first bought him. They never displayed any ich.
There might be 1 or 2 ich lesions left on the molly or the tetras that I didn’t spot, but I haven’t seen any today.
I’m thinking I may need to cut the medication dosage in order to avoid stressing the weakest of the catfishes to death. How much would you cut it by, if you were to cut it? Half? Desist all together and hope the heat finishes it off? Power through at full dosage for the sake of the rest of the tank?
This is a really tricky one. Unfortunately, heat only speeds up the cycle (ich can only be treated at a certain stage in their life cycle) so the raised temperature doesn’t actually kill the ich, but makes the life cycle quicker, so you can treat it with fewer doses.
Is it possible the catfishes are negatively responding to the raised temperature? I generally don’t recommend doing half doses of medication (same way you should finish a full dose when your doctor gives you medication) as you may not see the results you desire. This is why it’s best to set up a “hospital tank” so that you are only treating the sick fish without harming the healthy ones. But this is only a judgement call you can make. Only you know how your catfish are behaving and responding. I wish I could say which way you should go, but both have their flaws – failure to completely eliminate the ich will may see your mollies not make it, while it’s possible this will be the end of your catfish if you keep doing it. Unfortunately, this is one of those potential lose-lose situations where there isn’t a “right” answer.
It’s possible, but they were at the higher temperature for almost 3 days before the medication was introduced without issue. They seemed to become a bit stressed immediately after the 1st dose and very stressed after the 2nd dose. I did a a 50% water change to dilute the medication and they seem happier now.
I am working on setting up a second tank just for the glass catfish, but it’ll be too long before it is ready so that won’t be of any help this time. I’m redoing the silicone seals and of course I’d need to get a filter established.
From what I understood, the ich theoretically can’t infect new fish or reproduce at temperatures 86 degrees and above and dies after 48 hours if it can’t infect a host. I think that info was was based on a single study, though. I’ve seen a few people claiming to have wiped it out with very high heat alone, though it definitely has to be good and hot, preferably as close to 90 as possible with no dips below 86. At 85 and below everyone seems to agree that you are only speeding it up, not killing it. Might be worth a try, especially since it’s a milder case than most.
The molly has stopped flashing and there still isn’t a spot to be seen, so that’s good. I guess I will just have to decide what to do based on observing the fish. Thanks Ian.
Wishing you all the best of luck, Shea!
I’ve determined (at least, I’m as certain as I can be with all the different stuff going on in my tank right now) that the Hikari water conditioner that the Ich-X directed me to use alongside it was the likely the cause of my woes.
There might be something about my particular tap water that makes it… less than adequately effective. Unfortunately I did not figure this out until half my glass catfish had died. Ultimately, the more water changes I did trying to get the Ich-X out and help the catfish, the faster they faded away.
I dosed the tank with the water conditioner I had been using before the Ich-X and the surviving catfish improved a ton and became translucent again, almost immediately. The other fish got perkier as well. I feel terrible that this possibility didn’t occur to me sooner but hopefully the rest can recover now. 🙁
Oh no, Shea, I’m so sorry to hear that 🙁 I actually need to re-adjust this article then. I always just use my normal water conditioner (seachem prime) when I dose with ich-x. I have never used the Hikari one alongside it. I feel really bad that I couldn’t help you catch this as a possibility. I can’t imagine how frustrating that must have been doing water changes and not having it help.
Out of curiousity, what water conditioner do you currently use?
I sincerely wish you all the best as this is the last thing you needed.
I am back to using Aqueon water conditioner. It’s what I grabbed off the shelf at random, right before the pet store closed when I was on my way to pick up the rescue fish, but I guess it’s trustier than I knew. I’ll be buying another bottle.
I almost used Prime or Aqueon with the Ich-X but the medication bottle and their website suggested that the medication could be neutralized by anything with ingredients chemically related to sulfer/sulfate/sulfite, and elsewhere I also read specifically that it may not work well with Prime. So I bought Hikari Ultimate as it suggested to be on the “safe side.” Maybe it works on Japanese water better than it works on Arizonian water. Maybe it was chemically damaged in some way during shipping.
Or maybe it required more preparation – the Aqueon conditioner did fine being added almost right away the first few days I had the fish, though I started letting newly conditioned water sit in buckets for 15-30 minutes and giving it a good stirring as soon as I learned that was prudent. I also add water to the tank through a colander to hopefully swish it around and aerate it a bit more. Perhaps that was not enough for the Hikari conditioner to function properly and I needed to let it sit for hours with airstones in it or something. It didn’t have any special directions or warnings for preparation so I wouldn’t know. I know many people dump the conditioner into the tank and then hose water in directly from the sink, so I figured I was being extra safe with my roomful of buckets!
The fish are continuing to rapidly improve now that they aren’t being burned with chlorine. I dumped some extra Aqueon conditioner in there to put my mind at ease. That’s the other thing that nice about the Aqueon, it seems to work great even with sloppy eyeball-it measurements and double doses. The Hikari I measured very carefully with tiny spoons according to the label directions and it still didn’t work. 🙁
At least, the death of these fragile fish alerted me to the problem before all my fish perished. And if you amend your article perhaps a lot of people can learn from my mistake! Either this water conditioner needs more involved preparation from the typical stuff on pet store shelves and I did it wrong out of ignorance, or I got a bad batch, or it is unsuited to whatever comes out of the tap in the Phoenix area.
Obviously this is a sample size of one and I could be crazy, but I wouldn’t suggest anyone attempt to repeat my unfortunate experience to confirm it. My beleaguered fish urge the public to stick with Prime or whatever y’all are already using.
I know you would’ve warned me if you’d known of such a possibility! Thanks again for the well-wishes and your time, every time I think I’m going to leave you in peace for a while, something new crops up. Hopefully this will be the last of my fish drama for a long time!
Thanks so much for elaborating, I actually went on a quest and asked everyone at my local fish club for their experience and the general consensus is that the water conditioner shouldn’t have made the difference.
Now, we are a long way from Arizona, so it’s possible that it reacted with something in the water, like you suggested, or any number of bizarre theories. It was a fun discussion, but it didn’t yield a concrete answer as to what could have been the cause.
I did have a chuckle at Aqueon allowing you to be sloppy with your measurements. I had never considered that to be an advantage. But here is me with my measuring pipette painstakingly dosing prime to the exact ml, so you might be onto something there!
I hope this is the last of your fish drama too. But if ever you have a question or curiosity, I’ll be here to help. Good luck!
The world may never know for sure what truly happened the day of the catfish massacre. Better to be cautious.
Godspeed to ya.
I do half dose with good results…I have Corys so they do say to half dose ..I have only lost one fish to ich..I don’t do a water change for a few extra days..I get stess ich on very old fish..mostly old infertile female guppies….I use Ich guard..and I have as yet not had a re infection.. I don’t turn up the heat..or retreat unless really needed
Hi Ian! How are you?
Sadly, the fact that I’m here at this article should tell you something — one of our bettas passed away (NOT him of the cycling saga thankfully!) and now I’m scratching my head trying to figure out what happened. He was absolutely fine all the while, water parameters great, and then within a space of about 2-3 days he suddenly deteriorated and died. He just stopped eating, and began sinking and gradually fading. No visible fin rot or other obvious things. Nothing new introduced into his tank. Then I suddenly remembered one day when we observed this single light-coloured spot on his body. But it was just one, and didn’t look quite as white and round as it does in the usual ich pictures. And then the next day it was gone, so we thought it might have been some random floating crap. That was at least a week or more before the sudden deterioration. So I didn’t link the two till now, but I’m still uncertain. You write that it starts out as a single spot, but then progresses to more — so ich ALWAYS progresses to more and more spots? I really would like to know what killed the poor guy 🙁
P.S. I should perhaps add that initially we added salt, and subsequently Paraguard, but to no avail 🙁
Sorry for the delayed reply, I have not had internet for the past few days.
I’m, so sorry for your loss 🙁 if it was there one day and gone the next, I wouldn’t have suspected it to be ich. Diagnosing why a fish died, without visible symptoms is an incredibly difficult task. He could have suffered shock and stress months ago and it slowly got the better of him and only now given up the ghost or could have just been an unhealthy fish. Given your attention to detail, I don’t believe this is as a result of anything you did. Unfortunately, this is part of the game. Betta in particular are bred in shocking conditions, and are often not given the best start in life as it is. If you speak to any fish keeper who has been doing this for years, they will be able to tell you of mysterious fish deaths they *think* they know the cause of but will never know for sure.
SOB. Thanks so much Ian. I even wondered if it were velvet, but he didn’t have that typical described appearance (only looked faded and vaguely coppery after death), nor can I understand how it could have gotten in his tank to begin with.
Might I ask — the tank has been fishless for a week now — we did major water changes, routinely dropped in Paraguard and salt as if we were treating someone with ich, and I kept the friendly bacteria going with bits of food to keep the tank cycled. It’s been a week since his passing; do you think we can safely put in a new fish if we wanted?
I really feel for you, but don’t get down. It’s an unfortunate state of the hobby that a fish dying under ones care is basically a right of passage. It’s unfortunate that it happened to you so soon.
If I was in your shoes, given the info, I would add a new fish and monitor it closely. You can skip the salt and paraguard at this point too.
Thank you Ian. I did not expect to feel so sad about it 🙁 The kiddo was crying so hard too. We tend to take in rescues so we’ll see who needs help. Thanks so much again <3
Im not sure if my fish have ich i need help!!
If it doesn’t match the symptoms in the article above, then your fish may not have ich.
Hello, So I’m suspecting that one of my fish may have Ich. And I was wondering, should I treat it with tea tree oil? Tre tree oil has successfully killed fin rot for me in the past but I was wondering if it would do anything to help my fish kill the Ich. Also do I need to worry about the Ich transferring to me in some way?
I doubt tea tree oil would do much for ich, in part due to how the life cycle progresses. Given there are tried and tested methods that work, I would be hesitant to use this unless there was no saving your fish.
On my comment at your Columnaris post, I mentioned about quarantining some neon tetras that had showed symptoms of the disease. I followed your 5-day treatment with Furan + Kana. It seems to work and I could no longer see the fin rots, white areas on the mouth, and flaky scales.
However the past few days after I changed the water after the 5-day columnaris treatment, I noticed ich on many of the neon tetras. Reading at your post I may have introduced this through the plants I moved from my outdoor aquarium to my hospital tank (which I am converting to permanent tank for my neon tetra).
I am not so nervous about this as I had tried treating this issue on some fishes on my aquarium. I use Kordon Rid Ich Plus and it works like a charm most of the time. And since the liquid is blue in color it makes the tank look appealing to me. Is there a risk to doing daily treatments (as suggested on the medication)? It seems my neon tetras are getting sluggish and move less with frequent treatment (with very little sign of improvement ).
Hi again Christopher,
That’s really awesome to hear. It sounds like you successfully diagnosed them and I am glad that they are making a recovery.
I’ll admit, finding Ich-X so effective, I have never really experimented with Kordon’s medication for ich. When it comes to treating diseases, except for columnaris, which requires two medications to work together, I generally recommend following the instructions of individual medication. If it’s like Ich-X, I would still do the water change prior to dosing and redosing.
Is there a way to share pictures for opinions on if what my fish have is ich? I found white spots on some of my tetras. I have many fish in the tank and about 4 of them have at least one white spot with one having 4. Help!
Unfortunately, I don’t have a way to share photos on this site. Your best bet would be to post this on a forum such as fishlore or reddit aquariums, where the community can help you identify the disease.
Water was added to my tropical fish, we have 2 tiny tetra and Angel just under 6 gal one had one spot yesterday… Tiny tetra. Today other tetra has a few spots and tiny has a few more. The heater petco told me to get keeps at 76 it dropped to 73 the night before.
I’m 99 percent it’s ick what do I replace carbon filter w. Treat w. Feed. Can u add new plants since I’m doing ick treatment anyway. Sorry OCD newbie.
The carbon filter can be removed completely, a healthy well maintained tank won’t need it. Treatment is outlined in the article above. Feed as usual. I’d personally add plants after the treatment, just in case something else hitchhikes it’s way in. Don’t forget to bleach dip the plants before adding them. This will reduce the likelihood of you introducing something unwanted.
The only disease I have experienced with was fin and tail rot and I treated it with melafix.
Will melafix be good to treat ich too? Or do I have to buy a ich treatment med. Also, for aquarium salt, I don’t have any inverts or snails and I realize that black ghost knives (scale less) can’t tolerate ich but I never knew livebearers can’t either and I treated my 37 (40) gallon with it and it contained livebearers and I actually did around a 1/2 dose as the package says 1 tbsp./ 5 gal and I used 3.5 tbsp. and my fish did not die either
Melafix won’t work on ich. You’ll need to buy an ich medication. I’m really happy to hear your fish handled the salt without any issues.
I have a biocube 32 going thru a fishless cycle and am in day 7. I introduced ammonia to approx 4ppm and an 8.45 oz bottle of Tetra Safe Start. Water was de chlorinated the filter is running (260 gph) using polyester pad, activated carbon and bio balls. No heater is being used as of now and wagter temp is in high 60’s.
Current readings are ammonia at 2-2.5 ppm, nitrites and nitrates 0.
The water clouded up on day 4 and has not yet cleared. I understand the cloudy water is caused by a bacteria bloom and my question is are these the bacteria which are supposed to remove the ammonia and if so how long should this seeming over abundance of bacteria take to reduce the ammonia and finally disappear and clear up the water.
Should I make a partial water change?
Thank you in advance for your help.
Good question, that murky cloud that has appeared isn’t the same beneficial bacteria that appears in your filter. Beneficial bacteria clings to surfaces, it isn’t free-floating.
This bacteria you see is indeed probably a bacterial bloom. How long you see them entirely depends on your cycle. Usually it’s gone within two weeks. However, it’s not uncommon for this bloom to last the entire cycle.
At this stage, a partial water change shouldn’t do anything. It sounds like you have put in a good amount of research on the subject, based on what you have said, I assume everything is set up correctly. In this case, it’s just more waiting around, it’s possible you are experiencing a slower cycle.
Thank you for the prompt reply.
Would using a heater to raise temp to around 80 degrees (F) shorten the cycle significantly?
I didn’t put one in because I intend to keep fancy goldfish in this aquarium. I have heaters so there is no cost for me to install one.
Hi again Joseph,
Yes, the warmer you raise your temperature the better. 86F is the sweet spot for shortening the cycle but anything close to this will certainly help.
I neglected to mention in my original post re fishless cycle that I began by adding pure ammonia (Dr Tims) and when level was at about 4ppm I added 8.45 oz bottle of Tetra Safe Start Plus.
How is it that I am in day 10 and ammonia levels have come down only minimally? I would think the addition of the bacteria would almost immediately eradicate ammonia because the bottle says after adding the bacteria, fish can be added immediately.
Bottled bacteria doesn’t automatically cycle a tank. In fact, it often makes no difference at all to the speed of the cycle and is why I don’t typically recommend it. You see, bottled bacteria is a living product, and it needs to be not just stored correctly, but transported correctly before it reaches the store. Exposure to heat and cold can cause it to die and you are essentially adding dead bacteria to your tank. While this won’t harm your tank, you won’t see the same benefits. Even when bottled bacteria is live, at best it speeds up the cycle rather than instantly cycles it. I guess what I am trying to say is that it’s best to temper your expectations in regard to the bottled bacteria.
I am now 2 full weeks into my freshwater 30 gal aquarium fishless cycle.
This morning ammonia looks to be at zero or so close it makes no difference. I am using an API Master Freshwater Test Kit. Tested for Nitrites, showing zero at this time. Water temp steady @ 86 degrees F
I realize Nitrites buildup takes awhile but while I am waiting should I re dose the aquarium with ammonia? I am using Fritz Pro ammonia crystals. If I should what level (ppm) should I bring ammonia level to and should I maintain this throughout the nitrite portion of the cycle?
I am seeing conflicting info on this.
Thank You for all your help
You should be seeing nitrites build up as ammonia decreases, you shouldn’t be seeing ammonia decrease and nitrites remain at zero. What are your nitrates at?
As per the guide above, you add ammonia throughout the cycle, that first bacteria will die back if it has no “food source”
“You should be seeing nitrites build up as ammonia decreases, you shouldn’t be seeing ammonia decrease and nitrites remain at zero. What are your nitrates at?”
I have not throughout the process even tested Nitrates because the ammonia levels were so slow on coming down and when I did test for Nitrites about 6 days ago the reading was zero and this morning the Nitrites were still at zero.
Just now tested for Nitrates and they are either 10 or 20 ppm. The color match chart on the API Test Kit for a reading of 10 and 20 ppm is impossible for me to differentiate so lets say 15 ppm Nitrates.
I did dose the ammonia levels this morning (8 hrs or so ago) back up to about 2-3 ppm and will check both Ammonia and Nitrites tomorrow morning.
Again, thanks for your help
That sounds really positive. For your nitrates to increase, your nitrite eating bacteria need to have formed. I would watch this over the coming days now that you have re-added ammonia, but it sounds like your cycle is well on its way and should be completed shortly.
As mentioned in last email I re dosed ammonia to about 2-3 ppm yesterday about 11 a.m. Previously they were zero or close to zero and nitrites were also zero with nitrates 15 ppm.
This morning about 22 hrs later ammonia seems to have barely if at all budged at about 2 ppm while nitrites are at absolute zero and nitrates
are at same level as last test yesterday at approx 15 ppm.
I am guessing the small move down in ammonia is indicative of a bacteria colony not yet sufficiently developed which appears to be confirmed by the exact same readings in nitrites (0) and nitrates (15 ppm) as yesterday before I re dosed ammonia.
I had thought the ammonia consuming bacteria would be ahead of the nitrite consuming bacteria but I guess that is not always the case.
Your thoughts appreciated as well as any suggestions.
It is uncommon, but not unheard of that the bacteria establish themselves in a reverse order. In this case nitrites *can* always remain at zero. I have had a couple of commenters now experience the same.
YOu can confirm that the tank is still cycling by performing a 50 -60% water change (don’t forget the dechlorinator) – the goal here is to get your nitrates as low as possible. As you may have noticed on your color chart, the ranges increase as the readings get higher. This makes it more difficult to determine movement at higher levels than lower. So a water change will drop those levels and allow you to more quickly learn if nitrates are continuing to increase. A waterchange will not impact your bacteria, since it is not free-floating and clings to surfaces like the biomedia in your aquarium.
Be mindful that a water change will also reduce any nitrite and ammonia, so you’ll need to re-dose ammonia after the water change.
Alternatively, you can take the wait and see approach, it’s more hands off, but you are trading effort for time. Neither is wrong.
Day 17 of freshwater cycle (BioCube 32) and after re dosing ammonia back to 2.5-3 ppm yesterday, today’s reading has moved marginally to about 1 ppm. Nitrites still at zero and Nitrates staying at between 10-15 ppm. Water temp steady at 86 degrees (F).
I am thinking and would like your opinion. My intent for this aquarium is to keep just 3 fancy goldfish beginning with 2 in the 3 inch range size wise and after about a week adding a 3rd of the same size. I also want to add a few fresh water shrimp of the .5-1 inch size and since they represent a low bio load I will add them all at once (3-4).
Given my current cycle values do you think it problematic to add the gold fish now and the invertebrates in a week or so along with the 3rd gold fish? Do you believe gold fish can tolerate a .5-1 ppm ammonia level with zero nitrites and low nitrates until the bacteria colony catches up with the ammonia contribution of 2 smaller gold fish??
Your thoughts please.
The ideal is that fish are exposed to 0 ammonia since it’s presence burns the gills and can cause all sorts of issues. If you want to add them, you are doing a fish-in cycle, which is typically slower than a fishless cycle since you are focused on keeping your fish alive rather than the speed of the cycle. However, you can do this if you so choose, read my fish-in cycle guide for more information, but you would be expected to keep seachem prime on hand to prevent ammonia and nitrites from affecting your fish and perform regular water changes.
I think I will just continue on with the fish less cycle I began with. Thanks for all your help.
Last and totally unrelated question.
I notice when I post a question the time shown for my question has no relation to the time here when I actually posted. I am located (SC, EST). most all my questions to you are sent in the morning hours yet many show a time late in the evening.
The time associated with your replies is unusual as well as it seems you send your replies as early as 4 a.m.
Anyway thanks again for all your help.
Not a problem, I’ll be interested to hear how it goes. Please weigh in with any further questions.
On the time thing, it’s something I’ve been meaning to fix for a long time but I don’t have the technical skills to sort out and need to hire someone for. The times seem to be at random, especially the 2AM replies – I am an early morning person but not THAT early!
I have noticed on a piece of driftwood in my aquarium a series of small white cotton like growths which I am sure are fungus of some sort.
They appeared after temp was raised to 86 degrees in an attempt to quicken the cycle.
This usually appears on driftwood, especially if it’s a fairly new tank. Organisms feed on “food” that’s on the surface. While this can take a few different appearances, it’s often white and either cottony or mushy looking. It’s often referred to as a biofilm and is nothing to worry about it. Some fish keepers wipe it away as it shows up, others leave it be. If its a biofilm, it won’t harm your fish.
As I said last email I would and did an approximate 50% water change. I then re dosed the aquarium with Fritz ammonia to about 4 ppm.
Now 24 hrs later I am seeing for the 1st time a spike in Nitrites where none showed before. I believe there is something to this carbon hardness being diminished by ammonia and that it interferes with the ammonia reducing bacteria growth. Nitrites tested at close to 1 ppm (after being at zero) and ammonia is between 2-3 ppm.
I didn’t bother with Nitrates since they will rise as the ammonia and nitrite bacteria colonies grow and are easily taken care of by a water change.
The Nitrate level of 10 which I got from the latest water testing report in my area was not for bottled water as you mentioned but for tap water. I am living in Lancaster County (Indian Land) in South Carolina.
I am not concerned with a Nitrate level of 10 and changing enough water in what amounts to a 27 gal aquarium (after displacement for gravel etc) is only a minutes long job since I can siphon the water out the window nearby.
It looks as if the cycle at long last is cooking and I will re dose ammonia to about 4 and check again tomorrow. I expect to be getting the hardness test kit today or tomorrow and will let you know what I learn.
Thanks for clarifying everything here. It does sound like there may be something behind your carbonate hardness theory. I’m curious enough about this that I want to test this in a controlled tank in the future, pending what your hardness kit reveals, of course.
I’m just happy to hear you finally have what appears to be positive movement!
My local water co has told me they only test for calcium hardness and that is reading 20 ppm which is on the soft side. Ph at the tap is 7-7.2 but I am noticing it dropping in the aquarium as it is going through the cycle. Is this normal? This a.m. I checked and it was about 6.6. I did another approx 50% water change and brought PH back up. I have searched all over for some definitive info on what effect if any PH has on the cycle in a fresh water aquarium with the same question for calcium hardness. Does an aquarium more quickly cycle at PH 7-7.2 than at 6.6 or does it not matter? Same with calcium hardness. Is 20 ppm to low and should I increase it or doesn’t it matter? BTW I am waiting for the carbonate hard water test kit from API and will get you those results when available. Meanwhile the cycle seems to be again stalled with little or no movement in ammonia ( re dosed to 4 ppm 2 days ago) and minimal movement down in nitrites.
It’s been only about 3 weeks since the cycle started but it seems like 3 months. I guess I must be more patient.
If you can, give me the parameters within which a successful cycle will take place in a fresh water aquarium.
The cycle naturally produces acidification, especially as nitrites and nitrates raise, so a lowering of the pH, especially in soft water is to be expected. This should stabilize once the cycle is over, unless your water is incredibly soft that is. At 6.6, the aquarium will still cycle, but as it gets lower the cycle slows. It’s not typically an issue since ph can easily be raised with a water change.
For a successful cycle:
Hardness, doesn’t really matter, as long as the pH is stable.
pH closer to 7 is ideal, too high or too low can slow or stop the cycle if it gets to 6 or lower, it’s definitely in the problem zone. However, even with a pH at a stable 7, I have seen some cycles take months.
Thanks for the info on Sungrow. The product I am interested in is called Tourmaline mineral rock or mineral balls and is available from many sources. Some Aquarium sites as far back as 2003 recommend it as a great source of mineral and they seem to be highly recommended for shrimp and goldfish.
I wonder if you could ask some of the folks you deal closely with about the product. It seems it is also used in water conditioners
I know no-one at my local fish club has used it (I asked tonight) and short of that, any information I can provide would be largely anecdotal – I have not come across anyone using it in the hobby. Reading up, it seems widely debated, proponents make some grand claims such as “deionizing water” and many shrimp related benefits. I suggest sticking to methods that are more widely tested and accepted. However, you could always experiment yourself and see if it makes a difference!
I am sorry to keep going back to the same thing regarding the cycle but this is driving me nuts!
I am finishing week 6 and the ammonia is quickly dispatched from between 2-4 ppm to zero in a matter of hours. However the Nitrites are sky high (I would have to say 20 ppm since a 60% water change followed by a Nitrite test shows them still off the chart. Additionally as I mentioned earlier my PH keeps dropping which I understand is due to the cycle but which I have been adjusting with API PH UP which works fine.
I would like your advice on what I plan to do. I would like to place a few marble rocks (2 inch) either in filter or aquarium to increase KH (currently at 2-3) and GH (currently at 20 ppm) and also due an 80-90% water change to bring the Nitrites down to a level which I may be able to read. I did a test on Nitrites from the tap and they read zero.
My tap water shows trace amounts of Ammonia which is confirmed by the water company. I will dose with Fritz Ammonia to a level of 2 ppm. After a large water change and a re dosage of Ammonia to 2 ppm.
What I think may be happening is all the ammonia which is being converted to Nitrites has pushed up levels way past where my test kit can read them although they well be coming down I am not able to see the movement because of the low range of readable test results.
Ok, so 4-6 marble rocks of a 2 inch size, 80-90% water change and a re dosing of Ammonia to about 2-ppm.
What do you think?
Hi again Joe,
Here is a rough breakdown of how ammonia is converted. It may help:
1 ppm ammonia -> 2.71 ppm Nitrite -> 3.65 ppm Nitrate
I think your plan is sound and that you may be overthinking this a little. As long as the marble rocks increase the KH then this is the exact course of action that I would take. I especially agree with getting the nitrites back down to readable levels.
Today I changed a full 95% of the water in my 32 Gal BioCube. I replaced it with conditioned and similar temp water and immediately took readings.
PH was as expected at 7.2 (per water company) while Ammonia was at approximately.05 ppm (also per water company) but what was amazing to me was the Nitrites are STILL at 5 ppm per API test. You will recall I mentioned I tested Nitrites at the tap yesterday and they showed 0 ppm so at least I know the kit is accurate. Nitrates tested at 5 ppm.
What must the Nitrite reading actually be if I am still getting readings so high after a 95% water change?
I put in the marble rocks to increase KH and stabilize PH and will not re dose with ammonia today since it is already reading at .5. I will check all readings tomorrow and see what is what.
If it’s still off the charts you can use the dilution method to work this out. You want to mix distilled or RO water with your tank water in the vial. The ratio that you mix it at will determine how you read the results. For instance, a 50/50 mix would cause you to double your reading and so on. This method allows you to essentially test a greater amount of nitrite than a test kit would otherwise allow.
“You want to mix distilled or RO water with your tank water in the vial. The ratio that you mix it at will determine how you read the results.”
I’m curious. Why can’t I use my tap water instead of distilled or RO water?. I know my tap water has 0 Nitrites so why wouldn’t that work?
Absolutely can work, make sure you dechlorinate it first. I always recommend ro/di water as standard as it works for everyone regardless of water source since it doesn’t add another point of failure. If you are confident in your tap water readings, then you can use that to.
Did something I should have done before I began monitoring the cycle and that is test my local water supply for things beside PH. Turns out Nitrates are about 10 ppm and as my latest readings almost 20 days in show between 10-20 ppm this is proving to be a slooow cycle given I used the bacteria and raised temp tp 86 degrees F.
Found info suggesting the reduction of natural carbon hardness in the local water supply can have an adverse effect on the cycle as it applies to the ammonia entered into the aquarium. It appears ammonia reduces the carbon hardness which in turns curtails the ammonia consuming bacteria.
I called API because I also used their bacteria to boost the cycle and while they offered to replace the product they also mentioned the hardness factor which got me to do a bit of research. They are sending me a carbon hardness test kit as well as a coupon for further purchases of their products. They are intent in keeping me as a customer and doing a fine job of it.
I will test the water and make a 50% water change which quite possibly will kick start the process and allow me to finally move on to the reason I set this aquarium up in the first place and that is to actually place fish in it.
That’s really cool to hear about APi doing their best to help you. I personally always recommend their “master test kit” to beginners and it’s really nice to hear that the brand is going out of their way to help.
Can I ask where you are located (general area, not your exact location.) I only ask as 10 ppm for bottled water is right on the border of the maximum contaminant level for Nitrates under the U.S Standards and Regulations and many states such as Minnesota set 10 ppm as the maximum safe amount in drinking water. The max I have come across while giving advice is 5ppm, so would love to ask this as a question so that I don’t immediately assume a tank is cycling if a reader reports 10+ ppm. Thanks for opening my eyes here.
I’ll be very curious to know if it is a hardness thing. However, most fishkeepers learn they have a hardness issue because their pH levels fluctuate. Have your pH levels been stable?
Thank you for keeping me up to date on this, I am learning a lot too from this unusual cycle.
Although I mentioned I have tested my tap water I neglected to say I tested ONLY for PH and Nitrates never thinking to test for Ammonia and Nitrites.
I recently have made two 40-50% water changes in an effort to kick start the cycle which seemed stalled to me although I am just 3 weeks in. I was puzzled as to why after the water change (following day) The ammonia does not seem to have budged. I was also re dosing with Ammonia after each change of water to bring it back to 4 ppm.
Well today I tested my tap water for Ammonia and found it to be very close to 1 ppm with Nitrites at 0. This explains why the drop in Ammonia seemed to be nonexistent following the water change and my re dosing with ammonia. The water change did bring the PH back to 7 from about 6.6.
Live and learn. I think I will just leave this thing be for about 4-5 days. I have the biocube 32 and with the very close fitting lid there is almost zero evaporation. I think I mentioned the tap water is GH 20 ppm and I am awaiting the test kit for the KH.
Oh, now we are on the same page. It’s probably my fault, I should have mentioned to test for everything while you are at it. I completely agree with your hands off approach and seeing what happens after 5 days. It will very likely give you a much clearer understanding of where you are at.
On 2.12 I tested water and ph had dropped to 6. This represented a full point drop from about 7 24 hrs previous and right after water change, Nitrites showed about 0 with no test for Nitrates. As my water is soft at 20 ppm of Calcium Hardness I am having a serious issue maintaining ph even with daily 40-50% water changes.
So I bought a bag of Aragonite and put some in a media bag in my media basket (ntank). About 8 hrs later ph was at 7.6 and a test for Nitrites was close to 5 ppm after being near 0 just 8 hrs before.. This is a huge change and I wonder if the change in ph from low 6 range to mid 7 range is responsible for this Nitrite spike or is it coincidental?
Glad to hear the soft water issue is sorted out, this should put you back on track. Beneficial bacteria multiply much quicker at a higher ph. Growth would have stalled or even stopped at 6. It’s possible that the increase to an optimal pH sped up the growth, but given the extreme short timespan I would think that this is more coincidental than a cause and effect of the Aragonite improving KH. Either way though, it looks like the cycle is progressing nicely!
Finally received KH/GH test kits and as expected the KH reading is almost non existent at the tap and about . As I said before the GH is 20 ppm at the tap and confirmed by me.
Since I am going to keep fancy goldfish and no more than 3 in the Biocube 32 and plan to do weekly water changes in the area of 40-50% do I need to worry about the almost non existent KH and the modest GH of 20 ppm given the PH of my water at the tap is right at 7 to maybe a touch over at 7.2.
I am in the middle towards the end of the cycle and I know the cycle process negatively affects the PH but I don’t know how much. What I do know is the PH plummeted overnight after a water change from 7 to 6. If my PH is at 7 from the tap and 7 in my tank after a cycle end huge water change of probably 80%, what is the likelihood of a wide variation in the aquarium with just 3 3 inch goldfish if I do the 40-50% water changes weekly.
Finally am I correct in assuming Aragonite will both increase my PH to approximately 7.7 as well as the KH and GH? Goldfish do fine at a higher GH/KH but will the Aragonite continue to increase hardness as long as it is in the aquarium or is it self limiting.
I could forego the Arogonite and use the PH adjuster but the Aragonite is easier if it is self limiting in both it’;s ability to raise PH, GH and KH.
What do you think?
Low KH is an issue since all fish are best kept in a stable pH. Even a small change can affect fish since it is actually quite drastic due to the pH scale being logorithmic (a ph 6 is 10 times more acidic than 7 and 100 x more acidic than 8 etc.) Generally speaking, a kH of 4 or higher helps keep pH stable in the week between water changes.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to know just how dire this is until the cycle is over and you have fish in the tank.
Aragonite sand will eventually reach an equilibrium, it doesn’t just keep raising the KH without limit. While it’s less suited to cichlids and other hard water fish (lacks extra minerals like magnesium) but for your goldfish it is certainly a viable option. Again, it’s use is a little bit of trial and error, but it’s hard to mess your tank up by adding too much or too little.
If I was in your situation, I would first experiment with Arogonite sand over a chemical buffer that is an ongoing purchase. Just be mindful that there will come a time when the sand stops leeching and will need to be replaced. I only say this as goldfish have exceptionally long lives if cared for correctly. However, this should be easily noticed if you are regularly testing your water anyway.
I must say I only have anecdotal experience with arogonite through my local aquarium club. The few members who do use it swear by it. I have not used it personally.
I just read something and would like your comment.
It was mentioned that if the Nitrites get to high during the cycle the nitrosomonas bacteria which consume ammonia will die off and kill the cycle. Can that be true?
My ammonia levels are way done to .25 when I test in the morning despite re dosing the previous day back to 4 ppm. I can of course do a pwc since it is just a 32 gal biocube. Should I do so and how much of a change do you recommend?
If you are testing daily, your tank shouldn’t ever reach “off the charts” levels of nitrates. Typically, once it reaches the highest marker on the testing card, you would do a water change to get it back down. A 50% change will roughly drop nitrates (and any ammonia or nitrite) by 50%. For excessively high nitrates, you may need to do multiple water changes. If your nitrates are still on the charts, I wouldn’t do a water change unless you want to.
Looking for something which will raise KH &GH hardness and PH but won’t cloud aquarium as does Aragonite.
What doe you think about marble chips or bluestone?.
Good question. You have me stumped on this one. I have no experience at all with either bluestone or mable chips. Have you reached out to your local fish store ( not a bigbox chain like petsmart or petco) for advice? If they have the same soft water, they will likely have an effective but affordable solution that keeps water clear.
End of week 5 and the Nitrosomonas Bacteria are going gangbusters ntaking ammonia from 4 ppm to zero overnight. The Nitrite consuming dudes are another story and despite about a 40% water change the Nitrite levels are still showing at the max of 5 ppm which leads me to believe they are much much higher.
Should I quit dosing the aquarium to 4 ppm? Does it matter? Can super high Nitrites be problamatic to the cycle and determine it’s length? I have looked all over the web and it is unbelievable how much starkly contrasting and contradictory information is out there.
Currently my temp is between 85-86 degrees, PH fluctuates a lot and is 7-7.2 at the tap but plunges overnight to 6.2 which I know is caused by the cycle operating. I am adding PH Up daily to bring PH to about 7-7.2.
I am doing pc but on an irregular basis. Is there a benefit to regular PWC during the cycle and what affect if any does it have on the cycle? This question is because of the amazing divide between those who say NEVER make a pwc during cycle and those claiming it speeds up cycle.
What do you think?
Hi again, Joe!
The contrasting information is largely why I created this website, it’s a real mess out there.
At this stage, as per my cycling guide, I typically recommend halving the dose, so that the nitrites and nitrates are not building too quickly, before returning to full doses once your nitrite consuming bacteria are established.
Personally, I like to keep reducing nitrites until they are at a readable level. This allows me to figure out what is happening in my tank (are they going up? Are they going down? Has it stalled?) But some veteran fish keepers ignore it and just weight it out.
From my own point of view, I completely disagree with the argument of never doing a water change in a cycle (plenty of beginners in the comments here have and their cycles were fine) – once in the filter, the two bacteria are clingers and multiply. They are not free-floating. Doing a water change won’t remove this bacteria from the cycle. The only way it could slow down a cycle is if you made an error, such as not re-dosing ammonia after a PWC.
On the flipside, doing water changes will not speed up your cycle either. Water changes can help stabalize pH and KH, remove too much ammonia in a fish-in cycle etc. This is all returning the tank to “normal” – this does not speed up the cycle, it counters whatever was slowing it down (such as a low ph)
Given the current facts, myself and all the members of my local fish club are pro PWC in cycling. However, this hobby progresses all the time and if new information comes out to the contrary, I’ll certainly reconsider my stance.
Your opinion please as a substitute for Aragonite. I don’t believe it will cloud water.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any experience with either of these products.
However… I do avoid recommending anything by sungrow due to personal experience. I have reviewed many of their products and additives. They are generic imported products, have poor quality control and in some cases are dangerous to your tank. One of the packs of indian almond leaves I used of theirs released an oil slick into my tank, not expected. The tube on their gravel vacuum broke within a few weeks of use and their corner sponge filter began to tear and fall apart long before any other brands.
This interesting. These ceramic balls are used in water purification systems and according to the filing hazard documents are non threatening if consumed or handled by humans. There are no hazard warnings attached to its use.
More interesting is the price. They are available on Amazon and other Aquarium supply sites at a price of about $12.00 for 100 mineral balls of a 7-10 mm size. They are available on a water filtration site Crystal Quest at a price of $16.00 for a full pound which must contain many, many thousands of them.
Crystal Quest White Ceramic Balls are manufactured from a variety of ceramic materials which have a special formation with abundant inorganic minerals. They also have the function of adsorption for impurities and heavy metals, while aiding in human metabolism and natural healing.
Antibacterial and disinfecting
Absorbs heavy metals
Removes unpleasant odors
Creates alkaline water
Ingredients: CaO, MgO, ZrO2, SiO2
Type: White / 3-7mm / 23-78kg
No harm to human body
9. Physical and Chemical Properties
Color Light brown
pH 7.2 – 7.6
Boiling Point –
Melting Point –
Flash Point N/A
Explosive Properties N/A
Diameter 4 – 5 mm, 6 – 8
1 ppm ammonia -> 2.71 ppm Nitrite -> 3.65 ppm Nitrate
This is excellent information. It is now apparent by my re dosing to 2-3 ppm with Ammonia on a daily basis I have been keeping Nitrites during this time in the cycle at unreadable levels for my API test kit.
So, tomorrow I change 80%+ of the water, put the marble rocks in the aquarium and re dose Ammonia to a bit over 1 ppm.
Keep your fingers crossed. If this doesn’t work I may throw a brick thru the aquarium 🙂
Ha, I hope it doesn’t come to the brick. I’m confident you are on the right path now. I’m definitely keeping my fingers crossed that it’s smooth sailing for you from here on out.
I have been doing research and there seems to be a consensus that Nitrosomonas Bacteria can easily survive several days without ammonia.
My thought is to not re source Ammonia for 3 days after the first zero reading in the hopes the Nitrobacter Bacteria can “catch up”
As to the ridiculously high levels of Nitrites I think the actual level is meaningless since all I want is to get it down. That said the fact it was 5 ppm or more despite a 95% water change is amazing. Using simple math indicates a level of 100 ppm nitrites would be reduced to 5 ppm if 95% of water was replaced with water having 0 Nitrites as my testing indicates for my tap water. The fact my test kit still reads at max 5 the number could exceed 5 ppm currently which in turn means my guess of 100 ppm is to low.
Have you ever experienced or heard of anyone experiencing these seemingly super high Nitrite levels?
Not in the cycling process, nitrites typically dip well before they reach that high, even if they are “off the charts” Are you able to get a second opinion, just to make sure your test kit is okay here? It potentially is right, but it’s always good to verify.
I don’t think the nitrobacter will catch up within 3 days but I can see your logic here. Part of fishkeeping is experimenting and doing things your way, so if you feel confident here, I say go for it!
“Are you able to get a second opinion, just to make sure your test kit is okay here?”
I did a Nitrite test on my water out of the tap and it shows Nitrites at 0 so it seems the test kit is accurate.
I did test after my 95% water change yesterday and Ammonia is between 0 &.25ppm, Nitrites still at max on my test kit and perhaps a slight increase in Nitrates indicating Nitrobacter activity.
I’ll check again tomorrow
Thereappears to be a belief by some that if during the cycle Nitrites get too high and remain there that this will stall the cycle . the reason given is that excessive Nitrite while necessary for growth of Nitrobacter, will actually kill them. Can that be true and if so have any studies been done on this??
It is senseless to me that the food source for this bacteria can also kill it. If so why doesn’t high levels of ammonia kill the. Nitrosonomas bacteris feeding on it?
I am amazed at the amount of contradicting information available on the web in this area (tropical fish hobbby)
I’ve seen tanks cycle with as high as 80 ppm of nitrite. Anecdotal, but from my experience elevated nitrites don’t appear to have the issue people suggest. There may be certain situations where things added to the tank and a high level of nitrates are an issue, but like most things in the hobby, this has not been widely studied.
Regardless, my advice is to keep nitrites within readable levels, for ease of tracking.
Question concerning my high ( well over readable on api kit) and lingering nitrites.
You suggested I use fractional testing using say 50% aquarium water and 50% tap water or some other combination and then multiplying the results.
But you said the tap water should be dechlorinated. Why is it necessary to dechlorinate the tap water?
Good question. Again, this is boilerplate advice.
People comment on this blog and read the comments from all over the world. I mention the dechlorination as I don’t know what test they are using (slicylate, nessler, etc.) or what they are testing for. Some tests are impacted by chlorine.
So I repeat the same advice so that when others read the comments here and think “I’m going to try that for X” they get the correct result.
Again my preference for the fractional testing is to use ro/di water as it eliminates the water source as a point of error – well water and even some water supplies are pretty funky in what they contain.
A MIRACLE (I think)!
I just took a Nitrite reading and it is suddenly down to 0 after being off the chart high. You will recall you told me to get a more fully accurate reading I should a % of 0 Nitrite water mixed in test tube with aquarium water, which I did. This was soon after a 95% water change and the reading was STILL at max per API color card.
Yesterday was again maxed out Deep Purple n(5 ppm) while Ammonia looked to be .25 or maybe less.
I was frustrated and vowed to not test for 1 solid week. I dosed with Fritz ammonia to about 2 ppm and put the test kit away. So this morning I wanted to test PH because I was having a problem with it dropping quickly due to the low KH here of 3 ppm and GH about the same per water company and my test kit. I had added some marble rock as well as dosed the tank with Seachem Gold buffer for Goldfish. The PH was looking like a solid 7.6 to 7.8 this morning.
Anyway I weakened and tested Ammonia (0) and further weakened and tested Nitrites which as I said are now 0.
Is it possible for Nitrites to plunge so drastically overnight? I redosed Ammonia just now and will check again tomorrow for both Ammonia and Nitrites.
If they test out at 0 tomorrow am I ready for a couple to a maximum of 3 small fancy Goldfish? I know I must make a large water change to reduce Nitrates but after that how long do you think I should wait before getting my fish?
Thanks for all your help.
When nitrites drop, they typically don’t drop from “off the charts” to 0 overnight. I have a suspicion that they were never actually that high, given that a 95% water change and still off the charts would put nitrite in excess of 100 ppm. I’m not sure what has happened here, but I am really excited for you that they have read zero and you might be ready to put this cycle behind you.
Once the tank has cycled, you can add your fish straight away. The moment you have been waiting so patiently for (and I must congratulate you on your patience here) has finally come. From here, you would monitor the water every day for spikes, for the next 2-3 weeks. If everything looks normal, you can likely drop down to weekly testing with the weekly water change!
I have my fingers crossed that both read zero tomorrow. I’m really excited for you!
“When nitrites drop, they typically don’t drop from “off the charts” to 0 overnight. I have a suspicion that they were never actually that high, given that a 95% water change and still off the charts would put nitrite in excess of 100 ppm. I’m not sure what has happened here,…”
My guess is from the time I did the test using 3/4 tap water and 1/4 aquarium water which gave me top of the chart reading of 5 ppm, the levels have been dropping daily but would not have shown up as dropping as long as the reading was over 5 ppm.
Nitrobacter can under optimum conditions more than double daily and if you think about this it can be seen why a drop would be sudden after being so high for so long. If you start out on day one with just 50 Nitrobacter in the aquarium and double the total each day the total numbers are truly galactic after about 15-20 days.
I believe I had the optimum conditions for growth after taking your advice and installing a heater to increase temp to 86 degrees.
Anyway I don’t care how or why it happened this way, just that it did. I will confirm reading today and do a Nitrate test although I suspect the readings will be very high. I will then do a large water change (85-90%) and re dose with ammonia and check reading a day later just to be sure all is in order.
All told this entire process took not quite 7 weeks which is well within the expected time frame.
Hi again Ian,
My biocube32 is cycled and has in it 3 2″ fancy Goldfish. Everything is fine, Ammonia, Nitrites etc all great. Also been doing weekly pwc of about 25% and feed lightly once daily.
Noticed yesterday that my Black Moore was resting on the bottom of the aquarium. He (she) was upright but very still. I opened the lid and he came to life probably expecting food. He went back to the bottom when I closed the lid and remained there until I went to bed.
This morning it appears he is back to normal but I am wondering what may have caused this activity on a fish (actually all 3 of them) which since day 1 have been constantly in motion.
I know you belong to an Aquarium club and are in touch with many knowledgeable people so perhaps you could give me some info on this.
I asked my some people at my fish club. If your water is great (sounds like it is) and there isn’t a bully/overcrowding then this can be considered normal behavior, as long as hes upright.
Added heater raised temp to 86 degrees F so we will see.
Called Tetra Products and told them of my experience with their “Safe Start-Plus” product and they will be sending me a full cash refund upon my sending them a copy of receipt for the purchase.
At least you get a refund on money spent here. Please keep me updated on your progress!
Ok, tested again today and for 2nd day have 0 Ammonia and 0 Nitrites.
Nitrates appear to be between 40-80 ppm. It’s difficult because the chart with API kit is not clear for Nitrates. I do know the water company says from the tap the Nitrates are between 10 & 20 ppm.
My question is how large a water change do you recommend? Aquarium is a Biocube 32 Gallon.
For the water change, you ideally want to get the nitrates down below 10ppm. This way, your water supply will set the base line for nitrate levels in your tank. 50% Water changes each week should get your nitrates as close to the baseline as possible.
My 32 Gal BioCube has fully cycled and I have added just 2 small (2.5 inch) fancy Goldfish). I am feeding once per day and lightly. In the past 2 days I have noticed Ammonia creeping very slightly possibly to .25.
Is this a problem?
I cannot understand why it crept up at all (Ammonia) since I am feeding lightly and make sure all food is being eaten. The Nitrites show 0.
Yes, it could be a problem. This is likely because of the fish you chose, fancy gold fish need significantly more room than other fish (they pee and poop more, which produces more ammonia) Unfortunately, they are a messy fish and I would advise against anything else in this tank – the inch of fish per gallon of water fish rule should be ignored. It’s possible this is the cause, depending on how quickly this builds up. If this is the case, it’s possible for your beneficial bacteria to grow to accommodate, but you may need to do more frequent water changes too.
Water changes are no problem since it is a small aquarium. I believe if I change 30% of the water and replace it with water treated with Prime it should take care of the problem.
If you recall my tap water has Ammonia in it to begin with as well as Nitrates. Prime will render those elements harmless according to what I have learned about the product.
Why wouldn’t the bacteria colony in my aquarium expand to meet the additional Ammonia supply? I thought that is what normally happened?
I was more talking about the nitrate being an issue. More ammonia -> more nitrate, a lesson you have already learned. More frequent water changes are needed to keep this down.
Your opinion please.
Best product to remove nitrates from aquarium. My tap water has 5-10 parts nitrate. I do water changes religeously but I would like to do more since I am starting off at a disadvantage.
That’s just the baseline you work with. I don’t recommend using nitrate removing products as they are expensive, often ineffective and require an ongoing purchase. 5-10 ppm as a starting point isn’t too bad. As long as you are keeping nitrates below 40 ppm by your water change, you are doing okay.
Please help my son has a 10 gallon fresh water tank. He has neon tetra, black skirted tetra platos and two shrimp. We identified ick 1 mth after he started his tank. I started treating with ick x Wednesday. I do a 25% water change prior to treating. Since Tuesday he has lost a fish everyday and two today. The water is at 80f and our water parameters are perfect. What is happening?
When you say your parameters are perfect, what did the test results show for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, ph and water temperature?
I had an ich problem and unfortunately, all my fish did not survive. I have dealt with ich before but never seen it ravage through like it did this time. Long story short, now that I no longer have any fish, what do I do now to clean/sanitize my tank? Will this ich come back? I do not start this cycle all over again. I am prepared to buy new gravel, but what about the tank? In the future, I have an additional tank that I will quarantine the fish for a couple of weeks before adding to my tank. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
The good news here is that without anything to feed on, the ich will eventually go through it’s lifecycle and die off. You can still treat the tank with something like ich-x if you so choose, as a precaution. You shouldn’t need to recycle your tank in this case.
Thank you for your reply. So are you saying that I wouldn’t need to buy new gravel or sanitize the tank? The pet store told me I should boil my gravel and bleach my tank to be safe. I would just prefer to buy new gravel if I have to do that. I have been ill myself the past couple of weeks and have done nothing with that tank since my fish have died. Even the water is still in it.
Another question: I have another tank-39 gal that is ich free thankfully. Should I buy a different syphon as I have used it for both tanks before the ich outbreak but not after the outbreak. I have not cleaned my 39 gal since the outbreak in fear of transferring the ich and am not sure how to clean or sanitize the syphon or if that would even work. Again, I could just buy a new one which would solve that problem too. Its just that this has become an extremely costly adventure once again.
Thanks again for your help Ian!
Ich has a life cycle. Without anything to feed on, it will just die. Ich feeds off your fish and without a host, it will soon die. Again, dose with ich-x if you want to be safe, but an ich outbreak does not require a complete tear down to get rid of. Bleaching your tank and boiling the gravel is just going to be more work on your part and not have any effect on the situation. On other diseases, this isn’t bad advice. For ich, it’s unnecessary.
On the syphon, Take it apart and cleaning it with a bleach solution wouldn’t hurt.
If you have multiple tanks, I highly recommend setting up a quarantine tank. Any new fish spend a week or two in that before being added to your main tanks. This way they can be monitored for disease and parasites without introducing it into your main tank. You can also medicate separately, without doing your main tanks to. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a plastic tub will do. Also, bleach dip (or h202) any new plants, decorations etc. you add to your tank.
Hi Ian, I have decided to break down that tank and just have the one tank. So my question now is, regarding the ornaments. If I should want to use them again in my 39 gal tank, what precautions should I take as to make sure I am going to transfer that ich problem into my ‘perfect’ tank? It would just crush me if I lost my fish in that tank… Thanks again, Karen
Soak in a bleach/chlorine solution overnight (10 ppm should do it) and leave to dry for a week.
Thank you for information. However I’m at loss as I’m trying so much. The story goes like this.
I have 30 gallon tank. I have 2 pearl gouramis, 3 platy and 3 guppies.
A week back I added 1 female swed tail and 3 female plagues as I have a very aggressive and bully make platy.
Now after a day I noticed 1-2 inch spots on the swordtail. I had microbe lift Artemiss. I added 6 ml to my tank….after that one of my gouramis started acting wired. I immediately did a 50 percent water change and added the carbon filter. Called petco and spoke with a rep who I trust and she has helped me many times. She asked me to get Herbtana . I spoke with her in the night and was at the shop first thing in the morning. She wasn’t there and I was told to get melafix. By then the swordfish was fine but other platys started showing ich. I continued with Melafix, but the platys started twitching and acting weird . Another round to the store. And I was told that would not do anything and they exchanged it for Herbtana.
I came back , did a water change. Added back filter so that it could remove melafix. I forgot to tell you all this while tank temp was 86 F . Left it overnight. Next morning added the medication…have been doing it for last 3 days . Yesterday did 10 percent water change. Unfortunately lost 2 plates this morning. I see other 3 totally covered and don’t think they will make it ????????. My gouramis seem to be doing well . Please help. Don’t know what am I doing wrong ☹️
Melafix won’t work on ich. That is the kind of advice I have unfortunately come to expect from big-box chains like petsmart and petco. At least whoever spoke to you the second time was right.
I have no experience with herbtana for ich but have only heard negative experiences from my local aquarium club. This is of course anecdotal but three people have tried it for ich outbreak and all three failed to see results.
If it is ich, I would suggest using the medications above. I only use ich-x because I know it works. I cannot personally comment on other meds that are not mentioned in this article.
Unfortunately, ich is time sensitive and it may already be too late. Even if you add the right medication now, it’s possible your fish are too far gone.
I’ve successfully battled ich in the past with two separate methods: 86 degrees and some aquarium salt for 14 days on fish that were heat tolerant and the straight Ich-X but at 78 degrees method.
Is there any reason I can’t do both? (86 degrees and Ich-X)?
You can absolutely do both. As long as your fish will tolerate the raised temperature. That’s why I put the raising the temperature step before the medication step in this guide. My apologies if this wasn’t clear.
I plan on going with the 86 degree heat method for 7 days (hopefully stifling the reproduction of the ich) then letting Ich X do the final killing. I haven’t tried this method before but it makes sense, no?
I would personally dose ich-X throughout. The temperature just speeds up the life cycle, it can still reproduce if it finds a host. This means that you could have ich that is at different stages of the life cycle at 7 days, and the ich x will only treat those that are released from the eggs. By dosing through out, you will get it as it emerges from the eggs.
Great article. I have a 65gallon aquarium and have been battling ich for a week and a half now. I have guppies, rams and a bristle nose.
It is a fairly new aquarium been set up 4 months, the tank was cycled before adding fish and i added fish slowly and havnt had any issues with amonia, nitrite and nitrate, all 0 apart from o.5 nitrate which is my tap water. As well as ph stable at 7.4.
Unfortunatly i made the mistake of adding fish without quarentining (lesson now learnt for future) and have lost a ram and couple of guppies since the outbrake started. i have tried two products so far esha exit and waterlife protozin done two couses with noth and still have ich, i have raised temperature to 86. I havnt dosed salt as i know rams can be delicate.
I am in the uk so ich x isnt availible and for some reason its very hard to find products with the formalin ingredients, i have ordered a bottle of ich x from the usa as i know it has the correct ingredients but may be stopped by customs on way.
Do you have any advice or know any products availible over here that may be useful
Unfortunately, I do not have any experience with products sold outside of the USA. Have you tried asking your local fish store? Last time I was over there, I visited maidenhead aquatics, which impressed me with just how knowledgeable their staff were for a chain-store. Fish stores are good to ask since they need a plan on hand if ich strikes, since their livelihood is at stake. They very likely have a product that will work for you.
Also, 0 nitrate is not expected since it should always be rising in a cycled tank. If it matches your tapwater, it may be cause for concern and is an indicator that the tank isn’t actually cycled. If you tested after a large water change then that may be the cause, but it’s generally expected for nitrate to be higher than that in a cycled tank. I would keep an eye on this and if your nitrate doesn’t continually rise, you may want to investigate further.
I just noticed my 2 neon tetras have ick. I had already run all my errands today in an effort to set up a new aquarium. I’m running a 1/2 gallon desktop tank with 2 neon, 1 oto and 1 nerite snail. I’ve only had them a week. This was my starter until I could get a larger tank. I know it’s not ideal. Was going to move them to the 36 gallon once it’s set up and cycled, which is in progress now, and add a couple of plants and more fish.
Your garlic treatment didn’t give specific instructions how to feed for the homemade version. I’m interested in this until I can get out again tomorrow for a bottle of ich treatment.
Unfortunately, all of my heaters are preset. Is there a way to raise the temp otherwise?
Any advise is most appreciated.
To feed your fish garlic, press your garlic, add a few drops of tank water and soak your food in it.
With pre-set heaters there isn’t a way to raise the temp. It’s their biggest downside. Unfortunately, for small tanks, these are the only types that really fit nicely.
Unfortunately, you are in a somewhat tricky position here. Was your smaller tank cycled before you bought your fish? If not, this is likely where all the problems started.
I have a problem in my 125 litre fish tank a few of my fish have ick. what do i do ? i have aquarium salt how much do i put in what else can you recommend that i do to solve this problem, please get back to this as soon as possibly.
Everything I recommend to treat ich is outlined in the article above.
I mistakenly put double of the dose super ich cure I should have put it in the tank (10 cups instead of 5). What do I do now? I’m very worried I will kill all my fish in my 40 gallon tank. Help us much appreciated. Thank you!
Hi Vanessa, you should contact API immediately since it is their product.
Thank you for all the information you provided!
I’m glad I could help. I hope you were able to cure your fish!
I am trying to cure my neon tetra but they keep dying…I use Ich X twice a day, change 1/3 of water before adding medicine. Also I try to keep temperature around 82. But it’s only getting worse. Am I doing something wrong?
Unfortunately, Neon Tetra rare really susceptible to ich. Even if you do everything right here, it’s possible they won’t make it. I know this isn’t the news you want to hear, but sometimes it’s the reality. If that is the case, the only solution is to wait out the ich life cycle before adding new fish in, and being very careful that you don’t re-introduce ich to the tank in the future.
Thank you. There were sick when I bought them. I thought I could cure them, but unfortunately it’s pretty much impossible. 3 of them died today.
Is it really okay to use ich x and change water that often? I feel like I’m stressing the fish even more by changing the water. What do you think?
Oh, I think there wasn’t much you could have done, it’s hard to know how long they were sick they were before you got them. I think this would have been a big battle for you to overcome. I have my fingers crossed that they pull through, but I don’t think it’s looking good based on what you gave said.
You could do water changes twice daily if you so wanted to. When fish are sick, you want to keep the water in as good quality as possible. Yes, water changes probably do scare the fish, but this doesn’t stress them the same way that things that negatively impact their health do.
Hi Ian – thanks for the comprehensive article. I am unsure how to confirm that the ich has been eradicated. Will the white spots disappear within the recommended 3-6 days of treatment? Similar to your UK commenter, I am unable to source ich-x in Canada, although a well established pet store sold me some Malachite Green to treat with a salt complement (15ml salt/10 gallon). I’ve halved the salt for two of the first three days.
You’ll see no sign of ich on the fish once it’s gone, the white spots should be no more (although there will likely be signs of inflammation) – However, there may still be ich in cysts yet to be born, so treatment should continue even after symptoms disappear, just in case. On the medication side, if it’s a local aquarium store, I would consider their advice – these fish stores will likely be very familiar with ich outbreaks due to how often fish are affected by it in the supply chain.
Please answer a few questions about Ich.
1-Can Ich survive in a dormant state in an empty aquarium? If not how long would it take for a fishless aquarium with a water temp of 85 degrees to be completely free of any possibility of infecting new fish with the disease?
2-I read that Ich is “present in all fish” and will show itself when aquarium conditions deteriorate and weaken the fish. Can this be true?
3-I have read good things about Cupramine and wonder if it would be effective if used as a preventative (Ich) in my Goldfish aquarium when adding a new fish?
4-Finally, I read about “natural” parasite medications such as Imagitarium Parasite Remedy which use no chemicals and will not harm inverts, plants or anything else. How does it work and is it effective in your view?
Thanks for the help
1. If there is water in the aquarium, ich cysts will hatch. as per above, up to 6 days, but leaving it longer won’t hurt.
2. Not weighing into that debate. Like with all diseases, fish are more likely to succumb to ich when they are stressed (i.e poor water quality)
3. I don’t believe in needlessly adding chemicals to an aquarium. The best defense in my opinion is to practice good tank hygiene and sanitize everything that comes goes into your tank.
4. “Natural cure-alls” are snake oil for most outbreaks. I do not recommend them. They typically take advantage of pet owners looking for “natural and healthy solutions. Arsenic and mercury are natural. Doesn’t mean you want them near you.
Thank you so much for the well-written article, it has answered almost all of my questions.
I have been battling an ich outbreak in my 29 gallon planted tank since I mistakenly introduced some ember tetras that must have been infected. I’ve been using Ich-X for the past week because:
1. everyone says it works
2. it’s safe with plants and shrimp, both of which I have
Unfortunately, it’s been about a week of daily water changes and treatments, and my fish are looking worse than ever. My question is this- are there water conditioners that bind or neutralize the medication? I use Prime and it’s the only thing I can think of as to why the medication isn’t working, since it says not to use sulfinate or sulfoxylate-based conditioners.
I have never had an issue treating fish with ich-x and using seachem prime together. However, this is just anecdotal. Do you have any carbon/charcoal in your filter that may be absorbing the medication?