If you’ve bought fish at retail pet stores before, you have probably seen fish that look a little less lively than the others, and if you look closely, you may notice that they have small white splotches all over their scales. This is known as Ichthyophthirius Multifilis, commonly shortened to “ich.”
This common disease is highly infectious and, if not treated promptly, can decimate entire aquariums of fish. Though it can be quite serious, Ich can also be treated at home relatively easily by raising the temperature of the water, treating it with salt, or even medicating your fish.
Along with those treatments, you can also help encourage healing by regularly changing the water. If you’ve seen your neon tetras swimming around with splotches of salt, rest assured that you can help them recover in most situations.
What is Ich? On Neon Tetra
Ich is a very common disease caused by parasites that spread across fish skin. The name itself means “fish louse with many children,” which is an accurate description; each parasite is capable of producing over 1000 offspring to spread across the fish or throughout the water to infect other tankmates as well.
Though it is little more than a skin infection, it can quickly become fatal if your fish are not living in optimal conditions. Stress due to poor diet or water parameters can allow Ich to spread rapidly and kill your fish.
The parasite digs into the fish’s skin, allowing it to feed on blood and dead skin cells. The irritation created while the parasite burrows cause swelling and the development of white cysts.
To your fish, they feel the same itchiness you’d feel after being bitten by a mosquito. The parasite feeds for several days before leaving the fish to sink to the bottom of the tank. It secretes a soft substance to create a membrane to divide into hundreds of new parasites that begin the process again.
There are only about three days during the infection when each parasite is vulnerable to being destroyed by medication or treatment. Once it is in its host, you can’t kill it. Treatment must last long enough to kill new and old waves of fish so that it may be a 1-2 week process.
Symptoms on your Neon Tetra
Identifying Ich is simple, thanks to the visible symptoms. Infected fish tend to be covered in white splotches as the disease progresses. You’ll most often see signs such as:
|White spots similar to sand on the scales of your fish||Spots that appear on multiple fish|
|Lethargy (as the disease advances)||Fish that rub against rocks and gravel to scratch themselves|
|Redness or blood (in advanced stages)|
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Can Ich or White Spots Kill Fish?
If you see those white spots appear on your fish, you’ll need to act quickly; because Ich can spread so rapidly, time is of the essence when it comes to treatment. Ich can kill your fish if you don’t take the time to treat it quickly, especially if your water is not ideal.
How to Treat Ich on Neon Tetras Naturally
If you identify signs of Ich on your fish, you don’t necessarily have to medicate. Many people can treat their neons quickly and easily by using natural methods of treatment. The most common ones include:
- Raising the water temperature.
- Using salt.
- Performing regular water changes to help remove free-swimming Ich from the water.
This treatment often lasts roughly two weeks.
|Raising Water Temperature to Kill Ich|
|Raising the water temperature is one of the first lines of defense you can take to treat Ich. This works to speed up Ich’s life cycle to allow you to get through the infection quicker. As the condition is sped up, you will be able to treat at more regular intervals to help cut down on the density of ich swimming in the water. |
This means that with every water change, you should remove more, and the salt will also work to kill Ich. Generally, it is recommended that during an infection, you raise your water’s temperature to around 82F to treat it. This works to support the fish while also killing off the condition.
|Using Salt to Kill Ich|
| Using aquarium |
Can Humans Get Ich?
It’s only natural to worry that you may get Ich if you constantly reach in and out of the water to clean it. After all, if the parasites are free-swimming, would they possibly burrow into your skin to get a quick and easy snack? Would treating your tank cause any lasting issues for you as well? If you’re concerned, no one is going to blame you. However, it is good to know that Ich does not infect humans.
Despite this, several other infectious organisms could potentially infect people in aquatic environments. Whenever you handle water in your aquarium, it is recommended that you wear gloves (rubber or latex without residual powder that can get into your water) and wash your hands.
You also need to wash your hands when going between tanks to prevent the spread of disease from tank to tank if you have several to worry about. By doing this, you can help yourself avoid inadvertently spreading Ich from one tank to another.
Does UV Light Kill Ich?
While technically, UV light could treat Ich and kill it, it is not the most effective way of treating Ich. It is usually better to use other methods, such as dining with salt, treating water changes, and raising the water temperature to prevent infections from spreading.
It’s always concerning when you see that your fish aren’t doing well. Those white spots paired with listlessness and lethargy may make you fear that you are about to lose your whole tank. However, thankfully, neon tetras tend to be somewhat resilient, and they will survive treatment if you catch it early.
Treating Ich early can help you save your entire tank from dying and will keep your fish happier and healthier for longer. The sooner you catch your infection in your tank, the sooner you can treat it, and the better the results will be.
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