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Identifying and Treating Bloat in Tropheus
by Gerry Verrier (NorthShore)

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Diagnosing and treating Bloat

Here you will find some information on how to diagnose and treat bloat in Tropheus fish. We have included information on how to use either Metronidazole or Clout®. Metronidazole is an antibiotic and Clout is anti-parasitic. Both are equally effective although many hobbyists consider Clout® to be the stronger of the two and thus the last resort medication to use for bloat. One thing all Tropheus keepers agree on is to have one or the other on hand when acquiring a colony of Tropheus. Delaying treatment by even a day or two can mean the difference between one fish showing symptoms and six fish showing symptoms.

What is bloat? It is difficult to find a consensus on what exactly bloat is. Bloat is a condition in which a fishes gut is overwhelmed by what is essentially a bacterial bloom. It is believed by some that it can be caused by meaty foods that rot in the Tropheus long intestine and it is generally agreed on that it is mostly a condition created as a result of stress. That stress could be the result of shipping, aggression in a colony or poor water quality. Either way, it causes the fish to stop eating and the bacteria cause the fish to bloat and swell into a balloon-like state. The condition is fatal unless treated in a timely fashion. Bloat is contagious and can be passed from fish to fish by way of feces.

Does my fish have bloat if it isnt eating? Not necessarily. Holding females sometimes do not eat and so one must be sure the fish isnt holding eggs. Is it listing and isolating itself? Is it mouthing food and spitting it? Is it passing white/clear stringy feces? If the answer to at least 2 of those 3 questions is yes, then I would suggest you start a treatment immediately. If you only answer yes to one of those questions, then I would wait and watch.

How do I treat my fish that I suspect have bloat?

Below are two treatment plans written by members of Cichlid Forum that brought good results and can be adopted as your own.

Due to the fact that most Tropheus colonies are kept in large aquaria, typically 75 gallons and up, the cost of treating these beautiful fish can become an issue for the average hobbyist. Before looking at the options for treating entire colonies, the idea of treating the individual sick fish in isolation can be considered.

Because the medications are measured out based on gallons and not the number of fish, some hobbyists would rather catch the sick fish and treat the individual in a 10 gallon quarantine tank. This is a feasible option as long as the following caveats are considered:

  • Catching the fish and moving the fish to a small aquarium will be stressful for the fish and may actually aggravate the situation.
  • Catching the fish may cause undue stress to the rest of the colony, which may already be susceptible to the same bacteria.
  • The other fish in the colony may have already contracted the bacteria responsible and you may end up treating other fish in the colony anyways. It does take a number of days for the symptoms to manifest themselves in a fashion that is visible to the human eye.

A good piece of advice when isolating a sick fish for quarantine is to dose the main tank with a medicinal amount of Epsom salts which will act as a laxative and which may help the colony avoid contracting bloat. A medicinal dose of Epsom salts is considered to be a cup of salts per 100 gallons of water.

Metronidazole

Note~ Remove any carbon/resin filter media prior to treating aquaria with Metronidazole

Let me begin by saying that my Tropheus were in very bad shape. I was out of town on business when bloat hit my 16 Golden Kazumba's. Four days later, when I got back into town, I began treatment.

I wanted to share this with all of you because there is a ton of information on how to cure bloat out there and some of it works, some of it doesn't. By all rights my Tropheus should all be dead now as I started the treatment so late. Out of the 16 I only lost four. The remaining 12 are eating like pigs again.

Day 1:
I put 1.5 teaspoons of Metronidazole in the 75gallon tank at 9AM. I put 1.5 teaspoons of Metronidazole in the tank again at 5PM.

Day 2:
I put 1.5 teaspoons of Metronidazole in the tank at 9AM. At 4 PM I did a 50% water change. I put a little bit of Spirulina (Soaked in Metro) into the tank to see who would eat and who would not. 6 of the Tropheus ate. At 5 PM I put 1.5 teaspoons of Metronidazole in the tank again.

Day 3:
I put 1.5 teaspoons of Metronidazole in the tank at 9AM. At 4 PM I did another 50% water change. I put a little bit of Spirulina (Soaked in Metro) into the tank to see who would eat and who would not. This time all but 2 ate. At 5 PM I treated the tank again with 1.5 teaspoons of Metronidazole.

Day 4:
I put 1.5 teaspoons of Metronidazole in the tank at 9AM. At 4 PM I fed the fish again as in days 2 and 3. This time they all ate.

Bloat Cured!!!

I must stress that this worked well for me and may not work the same for you. I know the doses I used were higher than most other people recommend but I was starting 4 days late and the fish are showing no adverse signs from it. In fact, the Juli's I have in the tank with the Tropheus actually spawned while the Metro treatment was occurring. Go Figure.

**The recommended dose for treating fish with Metronidazole as per the manufacturers is 125 mg/40L water. Many hobbyists double and triple this amount.

Clout®

After nearly a decade in the hobby, I have seen my fair share of fish get lost to bloat. There are a pile of remedies but I found that at best these gave the fish a 50/50 shot. With some trial and error I came up with the following method that has worked 100% of the time with no apparent negative side affects on breeding, health, etc.

(1) DO NOT FEED ANYTHING during this process.

(2) Start this procedure as soon as the fish shows symptoms (spitting familiar food, hiding during feeding, etc.)

Medication required: Clout® (Aquarium Products)

Day 1:
Move fish to quarantine tank and treat with Clout® at full strength (1 tablet / 10 gallons--remove carbon from filter)

Day 2:
No water change. Treat again with Clout® at half strength.

Day 3:
Do nothing

Day 4:
Do an 80% water change and treat with Clout® at full strength

Day 5:
Do nothing

**Day 6--?:
Return fish to main tank only after symptoms have subsided and the fish has been healthy: (eating, swimming, breathing normally) for at least a week.
Resist the urge to try feeding the fish until after the treatment is over and do not cut the treatment short regardless of whether the fish looks better or not. If at any time during the treatment your fish seems to be experiencing stress as a result of the medication then do an immediate 75% water change.

**The recommended dose for treating fish with Clout® as per the manufacturers is one tablet per 40L water daily until fish resume normal activity.
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