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Malawi Bloat
by Marc Elieson (VatoElvis), Robin Lovell (Robin)
and T. Montgomery (GTZ)
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Symptoms of Bloat
Fish ailments often share similar symptoms making a positive diagnosis difficult, however bloat is best diagnosed not just by the individual symptoms themselves but the order in which they appear.

Phase 1--The fish does not eat well; it may take in some food but spit it out again. It also tries to hide somewhere in the aquarium.
Phase 2--The fish seems to "cough" (trying to expel something from the mouth).
Phase 3--Thread-like, white excrement becomes visible and hangs for long periods of time out of the vent.
Phase 4-The fish is swollen up and dies (normally, affected fish die before they are swollen)
This disease may infect other fishes but this happens rather slowly, and it is unusual to have more than one or two individuals affected with the disease at the same time.
"1

While bloat is indeed common it's also not uncommon to mis-diagnose the disease. For instance if the first symptom you observe in your fish is a bloated belly--and the fish is still eating--chances are it does not have bloat. A fish that is hiding may not be sick at all--it may be avoiding an aggressive tank mate. Long colored feces is indicative of a fish that is being over-fed and should not be confused with the thread-like, white/clear feces we see with bloat. Loss of appetite is always a cause for concern but it doesn't always mean bloat--or even illness--you could have a holding female on your hands! So while it's imperative to begin treatment right away, (meds are only effective in the early stages), you do want to be relatively certain that it is in fact bloat.

TREATMENT

All fish that have been exposed to bloat need to be treated regardless of whether or not they are showing symptoms. Ideally you want to remove non-eating fish to a hospital tank for treatment via medications in the water while the still healthy and eating fish are fed metronidazole soaked food in the main tank. If it is not possible to remove the fish then all fish may be treated in the main tank. The important thing is to get treatment started as soon as possible.

When using these or any other medications, it is a good idea to turn your hood lights off while treating your fish. These drugs claim to not have any active ingredients that are disabled by UV rays like many antibiotics, notwithstanding, the dark atmosphere will help your fish to relax and recuperate. It is also a good idea to remove any biological filters you may be using, even though these drugs claim they don't harm nitrifying bacteria. Store your filters in a container of aerated tank water.

To clarify, we recommend using any one of the following medications for the treatment of bloat. The first and most common is Metronidazole (Seachem, Fish Zole, Emtryl, Flagyl), the second is Clout and the third is Tetra Parasite Guard (formerly Jungle Parasite Clear).

Prior to dosing do a large, 30-40% partial water change using a good quality dechlorinator and vacuum the gravel. If water changes have not been performed on a regular basis leading up to the illness, first do a small, 20% partial water change, wait two hours and then do the larger water change. The initial 30-40% water change is not necessary if this is a hospital tank not previously in use.

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