A Hyposalinity Treatment Process

Discussion in 'Fish Diseases & Treatments' started by leebca, Oct 8, 2007.

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  1. leebca

    leebca New Member

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    I've not posted the general instructions for a hyposalinity treatment before now. Mostly it isn't that difficult to perform. However, there are some pitfalls and for some aquarists (especially those that think it will be easy) it isn't easy. :D Hyposalinity is the nicest (to the fish) and easiest (on the fish) way to treat marine fish of Marine Ich (Cryptocaryon irritans).

    If this is the first post you're reading about Marine Ich in this Forum, then go back to this post and read it first: http://www.reefsanctuary.com/forums/fish-diseases-treatments/52236-curing-fish-marine-ich.html

    The hyposalinity treatment only treats a very limited number of ciliated parasites. The most notable in this group is Marine Ich (Cryptocaryon irritans). The home aquarist will not be using hyposalinity to treat any other disease or condition. Is this clear? I'll write it again -- hyposalinity cures ONLY Marine Ich.

    A hyposalinity treatment will kill: Pods, snails, crabs, invertebrates, corals, live rock, most marine algae, and Marine Ich. This is why it is best performed in a separate, bare bottom, hospital tank. It has been performed successfully in fish only aquariums where there is no live rock and the substrate doesn't have worms and pods in it. But the best treatment tank is a bare bottom hospital tank, set up like a quarantine tank.

    A hyposalinity treatment will not kill other parasites or conditions. A hyposalinity treatment does not kill Marine Velvet (Amyloodinium ocellatum), bacterial infections, injuries, intestinal parasites, external parasites, and a few hundred other pathogens-diseases. Let's get to it! :)


    GENERAL

    Setup/System
    Use a suitably clean tank or a setup/establish quarantine tank. The size should 'fit' the fish to be treated. About 5 gallons per inch of fish works out okay for this treatment, except for large adult Angelfishes, Tangs, and Rabbitfishes. For them, it would be better to use the ratio of 9 gallons per inch.

    Lighting on the treatment tank should be dimmed so that you can see the fish, but not bright. Provide the fish with some hiding place(s) (e.g. PVC pipe, fake rock, etc.). Do not put substrate, live sand, live rock or any other kind of living thing in the treatment tank. A simple bare tank with a corner sponge filter is more than adequate. Use one corner filter for every 15 gallons of tank water.

    Don't add/use power heads or strong circulating pumps. Set the tank up in a quiet area of the home, where there is minimal human traffic. Use heater or chiller and thermometer to hold temperature steady and constant. A UV may be used if you have one suitable for that size tank. Just don't overcook the water! :) Do not attach a skimmer -- they don't usually work well with this kind of water. Besides, you should be making water changes to control organics/dissolved proteins.

    DO NOT USE AN ELEVATED TEMPERATURE during treatment. DO NOT ADD ANY OTHER MEDICATIONS TO HYPOSALINE SALTWATER without knowing it is approved by the medicine manufacturer for use specifically during a hyposalinity treatment. When fish are in a hyposaline liquid, the effects of medicines and medications changes. Some meds become lethal, like copper. NEVER USE COPPER when doing the hyposalinity treatment. Having said this, there are some specific kinds of copper medications that will work with hyposalinity, such as Cupramine. But I really and strongly recommend NOT using Cupramine with a hypo treatment. Copper is a poison to the fish, too, so there is no need to increase this kind of stress on the fish. EITHER use Cupramine OR hyposalintiy for the treatment of Marine Ich.

    The only different equipment needed besides the above is a refractometer. They are less than $50 and well worth the investment. A hydrometer is just not accurate enough for controlling the salt content in the treatment tank. Control will be essential to a successful treatment.

    First Water and Water Changes
    Water is taken from the display tank system or water is made up to match the water the fish is coming from. Match specific gravity, temperature and especially pH to very close to the water the fish is currently in, if water is being prepared from salt. The pH should be within 0.05 pH units -- that's how close I mean by 'close.'

    pH Control
    pH is hard to control in a hyposaline solution because at this dilution, the buffer ability of the diluted saltwater is not good. Be prepared for this.

    Make pH adjustments with pure baking soda (e.g., Arm & Hammer) you find in the grocery store, or better yet is sodium carbonate. Sodium carbonate can be made in the home oven. Take a pound of pure baking soda and spread it out evenly on a large cookie sheet. Put into a preheated oven to 350F. Bake it for 30 minutes. Take the sheet out of the oven, let cool to warm and put into an air-tight, clean container for use. Now the baking soda has been turned into sodium carbonate, a more potent pH + additive.

    DO NOT try to control the pH with pH buffer or other off the shelf additives. Use only the two mentioned above or a specific strong pH+ control. Those buffers are expecting a full sp gr. They don't adjust the pH. BUFFERS DON'T ADJUST THE pH. Buffers just add chemicals in an attempt to balance magnesium, calcium, and alkalinity in the hopes of strengthening the buffering ability of normal salt water. They don't work in hypo!

    Do not add the baking soda or sodium carbonate directly to the hospital/quarantine tank. Always thoroughly dissolve some powder in RO/DI or distilled water then drip/add that in slowly to move the pH up. One of the things about doing this treatment is that there will be some water evaporation. So dripping in a sodium carbonate solution can also help maintain the water level. It's trial and error. Make up the solution the same way each time, using the same amount of sodium carbonate prepared as noted above, and dissolved into the same amount of water. Then practice different drip rates, starting very slowly (1 drop every 5 minutes for a 15 gallon QT) and adjust it faster or slower in small increments until the pH remains the same. NOTE: Sodium carbonate doesn't dissolve well in water. Use distilled water or RO/DI water and add small amounts to it and stir well. Don't add more until what you've added before has dissolved.

    If you mess up and the pH has lowered considerably (more than 0.2 pH units) below your target, then raise the pH VERY SLOWLY -- no more than 0.10 pH units per day. A large pH change can seriously harm a fish, especially a sick one.



    PROCESS

    Lowering Salinity
    Over a period of about 36-48 hours (use 48 for most Tangs, Butterflyfishes, Lionfishes, Puffers, and Dwarf Angelfishes) lower the specific through water removal and RO/DI or distilled water additions. Watch pH and temperature of the added water -- match that of the water being replaced. Use only a refractometer to measure the specific gravity. Lower the specific gravity to a reading of 1.008 to 1.009 sp. gr. units. Hold it there throughout the treatment.

    Maintenance
    This is why I mentioned above this treatment is not easy on the aquarist.
    If the treatment tank has an active biological filter, don't assume it's working. When salinity is lowered the bacteria sometimes enter into a state of suspension and hold off in their metabolism of ammonia and nitrites. Controlling water quality and especially pH will be the challenge. Check for ammonia, nitrites, and pH twice each day at the start, until readings are zero for ammonia and nitrites. Don't count on the pH to remain steady. It must be checked no less than twice a day and if needed, adjusted.

    Make water changes to control organics, ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, etc. If all is steady, still make water changes of 35% or more every other day. After the first water use, the only water to use to make changes is made up water from salt. DO NOT USE DISPLAY TANK WATER to make water changes in a treatment tank, no matter what disease is being treated.

    Nutrition
    The fish must be offered and gotten to eat throughout the process. The best foods must be given. Choose the right foods and feed frequently as recommended here: http://www.reefsanctuary.com/forums...eeding-marine-fish-marine-fish-nutrition.html

    I would also seriously recommend the fish foods be fortified/supplemented with immune boosters during this time of disease treatment.

    Salinity Control
    If the tank water salinity is allowed to go up, the Marine Ich parasite will not be killed or stressed into submission. If the tank water salinity goes below the target salinity, the fish are in danger. HOLD THE SPECIFIC GRAVITY very closely within 1.008 to 1.009 sp. gr. units.

    Treatment Time
    The fish is kept in hyposalinity 4 weeks after the last spot is seen. After the last spot disappears, the hyposalinity continues for another 4 weeks. If during that 4 weeks, if any spot is seen, the time/clock starts over. There must be a minimum of 4 solid weeks with no spot EVER seen PLUS another four week to verify the fish is cured.

    Raising Salinity
    Now raise the specific gravity slowly. The raising of the specific gravity is very stressful on fish and this part must be done slowly. It should take 6 to 7 days to return the water to its normal salinity. Raise the specific gravity by about 0.003 sp. gr. units or less, per day. Less is okay. No need to be ultra conservative and go beyond 8 days to do this. BUT in no way try to shorten the time to less than 6 days.

    When the treatment time is over, there is no need to add back distilled water to compensate for water evaporated. Let that be part of the raising of the salinity. When you go to raise the salinity, add small quantities of high specific gravity mixed and aged salt water.

    Continue to monitor all water parameters and chemistries.



    PROOF

    Verification
    After the salinity is returned to normal, hold the fish in the treatment tank for another 4 weeks to verify it is cured. Look for spots every day, very closely. Observe the fish behavior, breathing rate, flashing (scratching) and look for any other Marine Ich symptoms. At the end of this time, the fish is cured/free of Marine Ich IF no other symptoms are seen/observed.
    :)
     
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    Last edited: Aug 17, 2012
  2. DrHank

    DrHank New Member

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    Thanks Lee. Didn't think it would be easy and you've shown that it's not. A very strong case for QT on all new arrivals. How long would recommend in the QT before it's safe to move to the display?
     
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  3. leebca

    leebca New Member

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    I have my own QT process which is tied in with acclimation and treatments.

    Essentially if all goes well, the quarantine process is 6 weeks. If things turn up or go 'sour,' it goes beyond that time.
     
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  4. Woodstock

    Woodstock The Wand Geek was here. ;)
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    Excellent info! Thanks Lee!
    Is there a maximum time that fish can live in hyposalinity?
     
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  5. leebca

    leebca New Member

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    The answer to that one hasn't been totally figured out. There is a lot of speculation, but the fact is that marine fishes have lived in hyposalinity for years. Is this good for them? It isn't conclusively known. Most professional aquarists are 50/50 but veterinarians and the scientific community say that the hyposaline state is not good for the internal chemistries (physiology) of the fish. Still, fishes have been kept alive in this low salinity for years.

    Some fishes are more tolerant of it than others. About 1 in a 100 don't seem to be able to handle it even for a short time. It's not a species problem, but an individual fish intolerance.
     
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  6. dionysusjg

    dionysusjg New Member

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    So by my calculations they must be in the tank for well over 10 weeks?

    approx 2 weeks for spots to completely go
    4 weeks of disease-free existance
    1 weeks or so of raising salinity
    4 weeks of observation in normal salinity water.

    am I correct?
     
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  7. leebca

    leebca New Member

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    Almost correct. The initial time is flexible and may be as little as a couple of days. The 4 week count begins when the last spot is seen to go away. That can be your estimated 2 weeks or it can be less or more.

    If all goes well, the fishless display system will be ready (if the fish came out of an infected system).
     
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  8. sqrle

    sqrle New Member

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    I noticed when you were talking about ph control, you didn't let us know how to control the ph with the sodium carbonate.

    pH Control
    pH is hard to control in a hyposaline solution because at this dilution, the buffer ability of the diluted saltwater is not good. Be prepared for this.

    Make pH adjustments with pure baking soda (e.g., Arm & Hammer) you find in the grocery store, or better yet is sodium carbonate. Sodium carbonate can be made in the home oven. Take a pound of pure baking soda and spread it out evenly on a large cookie sheet. Put into a preheated oven to 350F. Bake it for 30 minutes. Take the sheet out of the oven, let cool to warm and put into an air-tight, clean container for use. Now the baking soda has been turned into sodium carbonate, a more potent pH + additive.

    How much do you use and when??
     
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  9. sqrle

    sqrle New Member

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  10. lcstorc

    lcstorc Well-Known Member

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    Last edited: Feb 12, 2009
  11. leebca

    leebca New Member

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    You can take some pure water (if your system needs water to add-back for evaporation) or salt water from the QT and add some (0.5 lb per gallon or around there) of the pH adjusting powder to it. This 'pH+ adjusting fluid' is added on an as-needed basis, in the amount needed. If pH is dropping a lot, make a stronger solution. This adjusting fluid can be drip added, too.
     
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  12. sqrle

    sqrle New Member

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    So, I should use a .5 pounds/gallon, and just keep an eye on the ph and use as needed. Did I understand right?

    :stars:
     
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  13. leebca

    leebca New Member

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    You understood perfectly. When wet it doesn't store well, so make up what you need and use it as you need it, and then, adjust the quantity/concentration to suit the way you use it. This is not a precise or a 'must' concentration. :)
     
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  14. Frankie

    Frankie Well-Known Member
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    Yup
    My ph stays 8.0 perfectly 24/7. Other then the 24/7 very slow drip of baked baking soda I believe having no light over the tank is also helping keep things stable. They get natural indirect light during the day time and that is it.
     
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  15. sqrle

    sqrle New Member

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    That is all that mine gets to. I turn the light on just for a couple of seconds for examination.
     
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  16. Orcrone

    Orcrone New Member

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    I have a 125 gallon FOWLR aquarium with 13 fish that I just set up a couple of weeks ago. I purchased the setup used and combined the inhabitants of my 55 gallon aquarium with the two inhabitants of the other tank. One of the two inhabitants, a Kole tang, refused to eat after moving and died 9 days later. I did not notice any white spots on him. Now two fish; a blue hippo tang and a square anthias, have contracted ich. I'm trying a 'reef-safe' Ich medication, but after reading about it I'm not holding up much hope of it working.

    According to this article even if I remove the two fish to a QT to treat the disease, the ich will remain in the DT. So do I need to set the 55 gallon tank up as a QT large enough for all fish? If I'm reading this correctly I need to get all the fish out of the DT to get rid of the marine Ich. Or is there some way for me to just treat the two sick fish in a QT and not remove the rest of the fish from the DT?
     
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  17. leebca

    leebca New Member

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    This is a treatment process thread. Your questions about the general process to remove the parasite from your DT is a bit different.

    If you will go to this post and read :read: through it AND the linked information text, your questions will be answered and the reasons for the answers given: http://www.reefsanctuary.com/forums/fish-diseases-treatments/52236-curing-fish-marine-ich.html

    I hesitate to answer your questions here, since I might forget or miss something important that the above link contains.

    If you still have questions about the treatment of the DT, please start a new thread. Thanks. :)

     
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