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Cichlid Treatment Diary
Using Injectable Medications
by Satin Macy (aka FishBaby)


I noticed one of my Perlmutts looking odd one day. He was puffed up, swollen, bloated, almost the shape of a pine cone. I say pine cone because his scales stuck out like that of a pine cone. He was trying to stay hidden but must have found it difficult to hide in the rocks because he would get stuck or wedged in between. This gave me my fist opportunity to catch him and isolate him in a hospital tank. I took precautions to treat the main tank with medicated food just in case this was something that the rest of the community could contract. Medicated foods to consider would be metronidazole soaked pellets or Jungle's medicated fish food. Both have worked very well for me.

I hope the following documentation will be helpful, this took place over a 2 month period and sadly he did not survive. But hopefully my experience will help others in a successful recovery.

I tried several different treatments before taking this fish to a vet for evaluation. I tried Clout, using the treatment documented in the Illness, Health and Nutrition forum: Sticky: Bloat Cure. I also tried elevated levels of Epsom salts and salt, and Maracyn 2. All treatments yielded no improvement for the fish.

Here is a photo of my Perlmutt in his swollen state.

Fin Underwater Organism Iris Fish


This swollen state is often referred to as 'Dropsy'. Dropsy is not a disease in itself, but more of a symptom of a more serious issue. Often the issue is internal in nature and fatal. The subject has taken on water and is unable to dispel it, causing it to plump up. In the event that you should see a fish in this state, do the following:

  1. Remove the fish to a hospital tank.
  2. Test main tank to ensure all water parameters are in check.
  3. Treat inhabitants in main tank with medicated food for one week for preventative measures. I used metronidazole soaked food. (Use 1 to 1 ½ measures of Seachem Metronidazole to food in a ¼ cup of tank water. Heat mixture slightly in a microwave and let stand for 5 minutes and then feed to fish.)

I tested my main tank and all water parameters were normal for a mbuna community and no other fish have exhibited the same symptoms since. I am very thankful for that.

There are several different treatments that can be tried to cure the fish, it takes time and may cost you a few $$ in the long run. I tried everything to save this fish and in hindsight, I feel that if I had acted a little sooner on the injectable antibiotic, I might have saved him.

(Note: I waited too long to get my fish to the vet, if you are willing to spend the money on taking your fish to the vet or having one visit for a house call, do it as soon as possible, otherwise it may be too late to treat the fish. I think this is where I may have gone wrong.) Once the fish is isolated, you want to do daily water 20% water changes. In addition to the water changes, a salt treatment is recommended to help ease the swelling. My veterinarian suggested the following:

  1. Turn the lights off.
  2. For 3 days, add ¼ cup of salt (I used Jungle Aquarium Salt) to every 10 gallons of water. So at the end of 3 days, you will have a concentration of ¾ cup of salt for every 10 gallons. Maintain this concentration for 2 weeks and perform daily water changes. For the water changes, it is best to have your fresh water salted and ready to go. This way your fish will experience less stress from fluctuations in salt levels. So if you have a 10 gallon bucket, fill with water and add ¾ cup of salt. This should be good for at least 3 days worth of water changes (assuming a 10gal hospital tank is being used).
  3. Injectable antibiotic (Baytril is what was used in this case, however there are several different types of antibiotics available. If possible, try and get kanamycin.) Baytril is produced by Bayer and the active ingredient is enrosloxacin at 22.7 mg per ml. Inject antibiotic every other day for 5 days at .05 cc, this was recommended for a fish that was about 3 inches long. I was instructed to inject near the anal fin. Another recommended site for injection is near the dorsal fin as most fish have a layer of fat and muscle under the skin in this area, so you are unlikely to cause any nerve damage. When injecting fish, be careful not to insert the needle too deeply. A very fine needle and smallest syringe available should be used - if possible, ask for an 'insulin syringe'.

The following pictures should help demonstrate the process of injecting a fish. (Note: gloves should be used in handling fish. I did not use gloves in the demonstration.)

I started with a clean towel and laid a soaked layer of paper towels on top of the towel. I soaked the towels in some of the tank water.

Prepare the syringe and draw out the antibiotic. Be very careful to remove any air from the syringe: this is easiest done by drawing up more antibiotic than needed, hold the syringe with needle skyward and tap gently to move any air to the needle, slowly depress the plunger to expel air and extra antibiotic solution.

I tried to get everything ready beforehand so the fish spent as little time as possible out of the tank. I simply wanted to capture him, place him on the towel, inject and place him back into the tank. If you think this will take longer than a couple of minutes, have some tank water at hand that can be gently squirted across the gills; you can also leave the fish in a net for the procedure, and inject straight through the net. This way, if you feel you are taking too long, you can just dip the fish into the tank water at hand.

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When inserting the needle, you want to get it between the scales. Be very careful as to how far you insert the syringe. I was nervous the first time I tried this, but after that, it got better.

As stated, this particular fish did not survive. He died shortly thereafter. But I do hope that the information captured here will be helpful in treating fish illness.
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