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BLOAT


Text: Jovan Ćurčić, Vladimir Čebašek
Photos: Carsten Thorleif Stabel

Aquaristics, as a hobby, is an inexhaustible source of happiness and satisfaction. Of course, with most of the breeding aquarium fish, especially cichlids, we face many challenges, problems, various illnesses and disappointments. Taught by experience, by analyzing all available literature, both in print and on-line internet form, we realized that the most frequent disease is known as Bloat, and we believe that it is necessary to pay special attention to this, unfortunately, the inevitable topic. Nearly all of cichlids fans, especially African, sooner or later face with this vicious disease. During the research, we tried to take into account all the available opinions that are dealing with the possible causes of this disease and treatment methods, and take them in such thoroughly review and evaluation, particularly from the point of our experience without personal vanity. In this article we have tried to present the most commonly used treatment methods of the Bloat, both all over the world and in our country. Finally, we give our own opinion on the causes of this disease and recommendations for its prevention and treatment.

SYMPTOMS

Following the available literature sources and comparing it with our own experiences and opinion, we have found that the occurrence of certain symptoms can be, in chronological order, divided into several stages-phases. Phases of symptoms onset of the Bloat are as follows:
1stphase The first symptom of the disease is the loss of appetite and fish cease to actively take food. This can be seen as taking food and spiting it out from the mouth or complete cessation of taking food.
2ndphase In addition to the symptoms presented in the previous phase, fish start gasping as it can be seen by increasing the movement speed of the gill covers and more frequently opening the mouth, a change of color and characteristic swaying of the fish body can be observed accompanied by the appearance of characteristic droppings in the form of thin white strands. Fish are uninterested, soothing and usually separated from the rest of the group or other fish hidding. Usually sick fish stand at the bottom or near the surface of the aquarium completely still.
3rdphase Enlargement of the fish abdominal part (bloat) occurs, resulting in swelling around the anus. This is accompanied by enlargement of the eyeballs and with symptoms from the previous phase. When fish come to this phase of the disease death usually occurs during next 48-72 hours.

3rdphase of Bloat; Photo by Carsten Thorleif Stabel

Chronology of symptoms in each phase is a very important part in the ongoing fish monitoring and possible Bloat treatment. It is very important that every aquarist daily monitors the behavior of the fish in the aquarium and momentarilly acts to the first symptoms of the disease. Certain methods of Bloat treatment can be successfully applied in this way.

PHYSIOLOGY

This is a topic is the most controversy in the aquarist population. Namely, the most of the discussions are taken about the origin of the disease, especially which are the causative agents of the disease. The occurrence of the Bloat is associated with gastrointestinal parasites infection, followed by a bacterial infection. When reading articles or parts of articles that are related to this topic, we came to the conclusion that the development of this disease has two stages.
The first stage is a period in which there is rapid multiplication of parasitic organisms. All fish have a certain amount of parasites in the body. If the system (an aquarium) which fish inhabit is stable and the number of parasites is stable,it doesn’t pose a threat to its host (fish). In the case of the aquarium system balance disturbing an abrupt multiplication of these organisms occurs, leading to a reduction in the host (fish) immune system. The causes due to disturbance of the aquarium system will be described in detail in the next section.
The second stage follows immediately after the collapse of the fish immune system, thus creating a favorable environment for the development of bacterial infections. Bacteria completely destroys the immune system of fish and thus allow their own survival and successful multiplication. During this stage of the disease fish internal organs are damaged, particularly liver and kidneys. Weakening of these organs leads to other changes in fish, especially a change of appearance that is reflected in the swelling of the abdominal part. Due to the poor functioning of the internal organs body fluid retains in the abdominal cavity causing swelling. Complete failure of vital internal organs leads to the death of fish.

THE CAUSES

The causes of Bloat occurrence are studied in details and, in this part of article,we try to present the observations of most authors on this subject. The table shows the main causes of this disease by individual authors cited.
In the most read articles on this subject, we have noticed that there are several causes, including:
- Stress
- Poor water quality
- Inadequate diet
- Salt (table salt)
Stress in cichlids can be caused in many different ways. The most common causes of stress are: capturing and transportation of fish, inadequate reception and quarantine, aquarium water changes, exposure to aggression from other fish, inadequate arrangement of the aquarium. The emergence of stress in cichlids leads to decreasing of immune system and therefore fish come to the stage that is favourably to the development of parasites and bacteria, and thus Bloat appears.
Poor water quality in long-term harms fish health. For this cause one shall also take into consideration the fact that poor quality maintenance of the aquarium, the absence of water changes, fish over-feeding, poor aeration of water leads to the disruption of biological balance in the aquarium. As a consequence of the previous, increase of nitrate concentrations in water occurs harming fish (cichlids) health. The long-term deterioration of the water quality affecting the immune system of fish and developing parasites as a basic cause of the disease.
Inappropriate diet is one of the leading causes of this disease. In certain species of cichlids, especially of those that are being fed with herbal food, digestive organs and the intestines are very long in order to maximize the use of nutrients from these kinds of food. If cichlids are treated with diet that consists of high-protein food, it usually leads to irritation of the walls of the intestinal tract and,finally, constipation. This situation favors the development of parasites and bacteria, which is a precondition for the occurrence of Bloat.
Salt (table salt) and its adding to the aquarium water in order to imitate mineral composition of the water in Lake Malawi, Tanganyika and Victoria is one big delusions. Addition of table salt (NaCl) will not change the pH value of the water, but it will have a very bad effect on the fish body and the functioning of their internal organs. In this way, addition of table salt (NaCl)directly affects the health of fish making them susceptible to the development of parasites and bacteria.


TREATMENT

In the available literature several methods of treatment of this disease could be found. In his part of article we will describe methods of treatment with medication and treatment regimens.

1. Marc Elieson: Malawi Bloat

Author recommended two ways of treatment of the disease. The first is using Metronidazole and another using Clout.
Before starting treatment the author recommends to change 30% of water in the tank, to increase aeration and to remove biological filtration.After completion of the treatment a change 50% of water should be carried out. Also, it is recommended the use of a mixture of epsom salt (MgSO4) and table salt (NaCl) in a ratio 1:1. However, the dosage of this mixture is very undeterminated, one handful (?) per every 38 liters of water.
Treatment of the disease by using the Metronidazole has the following regime: every second day to add 100 mg of the drug per every 38 liters of water. Treatment usually lasts for one week because the fish usually recovere during this period, which can be evidenced by the return of appetite. When the fishes regain their appetite,author recommends giving the medication mixed with food.
Treatment of the disease by using Clout has the following regime:
- 1stday: 1 tablet should be dissolved per every 38 liters of water, and the solution should be slowly poured into the aquarium. The dosage of the solution should be gradual, and the entire quantity of solution must be consumed during 30 min period. This is very important because this medication has a very strong effect.
- 2ndday: change 30-40% of water and the same amount of medication as on 1stday.
- 3rdday: change 30-40% of water and the same amount of medication as on 1stday.
Three days will be enough in the case of an ordinary infection, and if it is more serious infection, then the treatment should be extended up to 5 days. If after this period there are still signs of infection, treatment should be repeated after 2 days break.
The author consideres that Metronidazole have only affect son the prevention of spreading of the disease and can cure fish in which the symptoms from the 2nd phase have not showed up yet, while Clout is more effective in the treatment of fish experiencing symptoms of 2nd phase and even 3rd phase of disease.

2. Ned Bowers: Hints on Preventing and Curing Malawi Bloat

The author recommends that the sick fish, if possible, should be set aside in a special (quarantine)aquarium with biological filtration and without activated carbon, increased aeration and where the temperature is 28°C. 2.2 teaspoons of kitchen salt (without iodine) per every 38 liters of waters hould be added in aquarium water. The treatment is carried out by using Metronidazole as follows:
- 1stday: 2 tablets of Metronidazole (?) should be dissolved per every 38 liters of water.
- 2ndday: change 90% of water, add 2.2 teaspoons of salt (without iodine) per every 38 liters of changed water (!) and add 1 tablet of Metronidazole per every 38 l of water.
This method of treatment lasts at least 7 days.
The author consideres that Metronidazole effective only to fish where the disease is at an early stage, and didn’t show symptoms of 2nd phase. The success of the treatment, according to his opinion is about 50%.

3. Jessica Miller: Question and answers

The author recommends medications for the treatment of the disease as followed: Clout/Metronidazole and Furanace/Tetracycline/Hex-A-Mit. Treatment carried out by using Metronidazole and Aqua-furan is done in the following way:
- 1stday: 1 g Metronidazole and 2 g Aqua-Furan (Nifurpirinol) should be dissolved per every 100 liters of water.
- 2ndday: change 25% of water.
- 3rdday: Tetracycline and Hex-A-Mit should be dissolved according to the instructions supplied with the medication.
The author doesn’t find himself responsible for the treatment carried out by using of Clout, because it hasn’t been tested.

4. Treatment 14

The author suggests two medications for the treatment of Bloat: Octozin and Paragon. The author had success with Octozin in the early stages of the disease when parasites were the cause of the disease. When the cause were bacteria, fungus or viruses then he used Paragon. Method of treatment is not described, and we assume that treatments were carried out according to the instructions supplied with the medicine.

5. Malawi Bloat

The author suggests two medications for the treatment of Bloat: Metronidazole and Clout. Method of treatment is not described, and we assume that treatments were carried out according to the instructions supplied with the medicine or that are similar to those described in Marc Elieson: Malawi Bloat.

6. Pam Chin: Tropheus Anonymous

The author has used the Clout medicine for the treatment, but with partial success. It was emphasized that it is very important to react to the first symptoms of this disease. Method of treatment is not described, and we assume that it is carried out according to the instructions supplied with the medicine.

7. Jessica Miller: Tropheus: A Hobbyist’s Experience

The author has used two medications for treatment as follows: Clout and Metronidazole. Clout is used by performing change 40% of water in the tank and adding dissolved Clout according to the instructions supplied with the medicine. Method of treatment by using Metronidazole is not described, and we assume that it is carried out according to the instructions supplied with the medicine. Metronidazole as treatment method is not indicated because it was less successful.

8. Javier Suarez Santana: Tropheus keeping and an experience in Bloat Treatment

The author states that he had success with a combination of these two medication: Metronidazole and Aquafuran. Before starting treatment it is necessary to remove the biological filtration, carry out change 40% of water and increase aeration. His method of treatment was:
- 1stday: 1 g Metronidazole and 2 g Aqua-Furan (Nifurpirinol) should be dissolved per every 100 liters of water.
- 2ndday: same as the 1st day.
- 3rdday: same as the 1st day.
- 4thday: change 40% of water.
- 5thday: do nothing.
- 6thday: do nothing.
- 7thday: start all over again, same as the 1st day.
After completion of the treatment 40% change of water should be carried out for a further 2 days.
In case that the disease is at an advanced stage, the author recommended a stronger dose of medications, 4 g Metronidazole and 2 g Aqua-Furan during the first two days of treatment.

9. Larry Soldani: Observation and Experiences in Keeping Tropheus

The author had success with Metronidazole. It is suggested that one should avoid the use of Clout because this medicine is too aggressive. Before starting treatment it is necessary to remove the biological filtration. Method of treatment is:
- 1stday: 125 mg of Metronidazole should be dissolved per every 38 liters of water.
- 2ndday: same as the 1st day.
- 3rdday: change 30% of water.
- 4thday: 125 mg of Metronidazole should be dissolved per every 38 liters of water.
- 5thday: same as the 4th day.
- 6thday: change 30% of water.
The author states that during this treatment fish were fed by combination of flake food and 50 mg Metronidazole which were soaked with water. The author also stated that he used the medicine Octozin but without comment.

RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS

In this part of the article we will describe our view of the causes of disease, prevention, treatment with appropriate medications.
Our opinion is that the most important causes of this disease are the following: food (pellets, sticks ...), water quality, stress and the use of table salt for the aquarium water preparation.
Analysing our past experience, we came to the conclusion that certain types of food (granules, sticks, etc.) almost certainly lead to this disease. Usage of granules necessarily requires soaking with water to the moment when granules are completely tender. Particular attention should be given to a dosage of granulated food and strive not to overfed fish,at the same time. So far, we used different sorts of granulated food including: SeraDiscus, Sera Granugreen, Tetra Discus, Tetra Red Parrot, Tetra Marin Granules, OsiSpirulina, OsiBrine Shrimp, HikariBio Gold, Hikari Gold, Hikari Excel, Hikari Staple, TropheusBits, Hai Feng. The best results we have achieved by soaking granulated food Hikari Gold, Hikari Excel and Hai Feng. The last mentioned food (Hai Feng) gave good results in color intensification of all fish, which was tested on more than 100 species of cichlids.
We almost never had a problem with flake food, and it is necessary to emphasize that we use mainly herbal food, namely: Sera Flora, Tetra Phyll, Tetra Rubin, OsiSpirulina, OsiBrine Shrimp. And there is no fear of the fact that the fish may overfed, soit is less likely that this disease will happen. These types of foods aren’t necessary to soak with water.

Prevention

Prevention of this disease occurrence can be considered in some details such as: quarantine, suitable conditions in the aquarium (technical and biological) and proper maintenance of the aquarium and equipment.
Quarantine means the acceptance of new fish and adjusting them to new conditions in the aquarium. We believe that implementation of quarantine is necessary, especially when the fish spent a long time in transportation and when the conditions in which the fish lived previously have been significantly changed, such as: water chemistry, aquarium dimensions, diet. In this period, we conducted two mandatory treatment with Octozin, according to the instructions supplied with the the medicine, except that we made a 2 days break and between two treatments we changed 30 to 50% of aquarium water. Implementation of this quarantine is 99%successfull. Conditions in the quarantine aquarium should be similar to those that will be in a future aquarium, except that we have had increased water aeration in each quarantine aquarium.
Under appropriate aquarium conditions, it is considered to be: quality aquarium filtration, adequate water quality (pH, kH, gH, NO3 ...), good aeration.
Quality maintenance includes regular water changes, cleaning the tank, filters and equipment, daily monitoring of the condition of fish and aquarium.

Medication

Octozin (Dimetridazole) is a product of Waterlife from United Kingdom. This product is fully biodegradable in water, its application doesn’t affect the biological filter, doesn’t colors the aquarium water, it isn’t fotosensitive (not sensitive to light) and isn’t stressful to the fish. It should be applied strictly according to the instructions supplied with the medicine.
Bactopur direct (Nifurpirinol) is a product of Sera from Germany. This medicine is an antibiotic, it kills all types of bacteria, including those in the aquarium filter, it colours the aquarium water, it is fotosensitive (sensitive to light). Its application should be carried out according to the instructions provided with this medicine.
Aquarium Treatment 9 Anti Internal Bacteria is a product of Interpet from United Kingdom. This product does affect bacterial infection of the internal organs, doesn’t colors the aquarium water, doesn’t affect the biological filter, it isn’t fotosensitive and isn’t stressful to the fish.
Octozin and Aquarium Tretment 9 are completely harmless to fish, don’t cause stress and according to our experience, can be combined. The treatment combination of two medicines is as follows:
- 1stday: 1 tablet of Octozin should be dissolved per every 22.5 liters of water.
- 2ndday: same as the 1st day.
- 3rdday: same as the 1st day.
- 4thday: add 1 ml Aquarium Treatment 9 Anti Internal Bacteria per every 10 liters of water, and it should be dissolved in warm water before added to aquarium water.
- 5thday: do nothing.
- 6thday: do nothing.
- 7thday: do nothing.
- 8thday: add 1 ml Aquarium Treatment 9 Anti Internal Bacteria per every 10 liters of water, and it should be dissolved in warm water before added to aquarium water.
To make sure that all the internal bacteria will be destroyed it is necessary to complete the treatment according to the instructions provided with Aquarium Treatment 9 Anti Internal Bacteria and don’t change the water until the whole cycle is finished predicted by treatment with this medicine. This is possible because, as we mentioned earlier, Octozin completely biodegradable in aquarium conditions.
Temperature has a great influence on the development of the disease (parasitic and bacterial infections), and therefore, in our opinion, the ideal temperature in the tank should be from 23 to 25 °C!!!!

Notice:

For the treatment of the Bloat disease, the authors used the following:
Metronidazole in various dosages from 500 mg to 2 g per 100 litrers of water, and thereby had been no improvement in the fish conditions. The reasons why there was no response are not known to us, but we think that part of the problem are the medication that can be purchased on the market in Serbia. The medications in Serbia have different backing material, which directly affect the effectiveness of the medicine. In addition to the above, we also used: Mebendazol, Droncit, Masoten, Preis Coly, different antibiotics (tetracyclines in all different shapes, gentamicin, chloramphenicol, flumequine, nifurpirinol various producers), Sera BaktoTab (food tablets with nifurpirinol), sulfonamide, table salt, epsom salt and etc.

Treatment

The basis for successful treatment of Bloat is to regularly monitor the condition and behavior of fish. Here, special attention should be taken when feeding fish and pay attention see if there are fish that don’t eat, or if there are fish that take food but after a while spit it out. With the first symptoms of the disease one should respond almost immediately because experience tells us that the only on-time reactions is a basic precondition for successful treatment. Methods of treatment that are the most successful in our opinion,in certain stages of the Bloat disease are:
- 1st phase treatment
Symptoms of this phase is successfully treated by using a Octozin.
- 2nd phase treatment
Treatment at this stage is possible by using Octozin and the appropriate antibiotic (BactopurDirect, Aquafuran, etc. - Nifurpirinol) and/or Aquarium Treatment 9 Anti Internal Bacteria (Interpet) as an antibiotic. This is to prevent the appearance of symptoms of 3rdphase.
- 3rd phase treatment
At this phase of disease there is no medical treatment guarantying the recovery.
On all fish food packages there is a warning that says:
FEED THE FISH 2 TIMES (GROWN UP FISH) TO 4 TIMES (YOUNG FISH), ONLY AS MUCH FOOD AS THE FISH CAN CONSUME WITHIN A FEW MINUTES (MAX. 2-3 MINUTES).
All the above mentioned experiences are acquired by breeding several hundred different species of cichlids and monitoring their behavior. We have to mention that we have the experience that have acquired while breeding more than 40 species of Tropheus as well.

REFERENCES

1. Marc Elieson: Malawi Bloat, www.cichlid-forum.com/articles/malawi_bloat.php
2. Terry Ranson: Prevention of Malawi Bloat, http://www.aquarticles.com/articles/management/Ranson_Malawi_Bloat.html
3. Phil Benes, Mark Welerman: Prevention of Malawi Bloat Revisited, http://www.aquarticles.com/articles/management/Ranson_Malawi_Bloat.html
4. Description of »bloat« in cichlid fishes, http://www.bigskycichlids.com/bloat_article.htm
5. Ned Bowers: Hints on Preventing and Curing Malawi Bloat, http://www.unclenedsfishfactory.com/LibraryArticles/Library6MalwaiBloat.html
6. Jim Kostich: Fat Fish III: Kidney Disease, http://www.bestfish.com/tips/061799.html
7. Jessica Miller: Question and answers
8. Treatment 14, http://www.koicarp.net/koi_medication/symptoms_treatments/treatment_14.html
9. Malawi Bloat, http://tropicalresources.net/phpBB2/d_profiles_malawi_bloat.php
10. Pam Chin: Tropheus Anonymous
11. Jessica Miller: Tropheus: A Hobbyist’s Experience
12. Devin Sung: Confesions of Tropheus addict
13. Javier Suarez Santana: Tropheus keeping and an experiencein Bloat Treatment
14. Ad Konings: The genus Tropheus
15. Larry Soldani: Observation and Experiences in Keeping Tropheus
16. Dieter Untergasser: Krankheiten der Aquarienfische, Diagnose und Behandlung
17. Milica Stojković-Atanacković, MilankaMatejić: Bolestiriba, rakovaiskoljaka
18. Dr. Gerald Bassleer: Color guide of tropical fish diseases
19. Lukacs Laszlo-Sinko Gabor: A Tanganyka-es a Malawi-to sugervilaga


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