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Columnaria, or Flexibacteriosis – symptoms and treatment of fish

Columnaria – one of the most common diseases among the inhabitants of the aquarium. Although the causative agent of the disease is a gram-negative rod-shaped bacterium called Flexibacter columnaris, due to the similarity of symptoms with some fungal infections, the disease has received a second name, oral fungus.

Symptoms of Columnaria disease are as follows:

  • affected fish can sway in place or move around the aquarium in spurts;
  • complete apathy to all aquarian living creatures and the clamping of fins is the first sign of the disease;
  • at the initial stage of the disease, grayish formations may appear near the mouth, on the gills, on the head or fins;
  • very often the infection gets into the oral cavity;
  • the affected areas of the body are covered with grayish-white down and the scales at the edges become white;
  • very quickly, white spots of up to 5 millimeters in size will cover the whole body of the fish, and then this rubbish will begin to eat away the skin of the fish to the muscles;
  • the affected dorsal fin is transformed into a saddle;
  • bruises with a thin border on the edges are possible on the skin of the fish, which subsequently leads to the destruction of the skin of the fish of the upper layers;
  • if the sore has struck the gills, the gills may decompose and change their normal color to dark brown;
  • Columnaria in the defeat of the internal organs of fish causes the accumulation of fluid in the eyes, which then contributes to strains;
  • broken fins will tell about the last stage of the sore

The areas of the body of a fish affected by the disease are covered with whitish formations that look like cotton wool. It is this similarity of columnaria with fungal diseases that often causes confusion.

But it is worth noting that, unlike the fungus, the formations caused by the bacterium are grayish in color, and appear to be coarser and granular. Also, unlike fungal infections, the disease develops slowly and is determined by the presence of a white “fluff” in the region of the mouth, fins and scales.

A characteristic feature of the disease is the ability of bacteria of this group to grow and spread exclusively in fresh water and at high temperatures, therefore, the infection often spreads to fish living in aquariums. The most favorable breeding environment for Flexibacter columnaris is the temperature range from 28 to 30 degrees.

Bacteria generally do not infect healthy fish with a good immune system. However, an infected fish becomes a breeding ground for a huge number of bacteria, which contributes to the rapid spread of infection to other individuals with weakened protective functions.

In some cases, the disease proceeds without external signs, and the death of the fish occurs in 2-3 days. If you do not take time to eliminate the causative agents of the disease, the mortality rate among the inhabitants of the aquarium can be 100%.

First of all, labyrinth and viviparous fish are affected by bacteria, although other breeds may also be affected by the disease.

Insufficient reservoir area or overcrowding are the main factors contributing to the spread of columnaria epidemics among aquarium fish.

Although in the treatment of certain diseases there is a recommendation to increase the temperature of the water in the aquarium, in this case the use of this method is not acceptable, since elevated temperature reduces the oxygen content in the water and promotes the rapid reproduction and spread of bacteria of this group not only on the body, but also on the gills, leading to oxygen deficiency in the body of the affected individual. At this stage, death is inevitable, even when trying to treat.

  1. First of all, one should not allow high levels of organic matter in the aquarium water, there should be no food residue at the bottom, excess food should not fall into the ground, and for this, the aquarium soil should be selected correctly; if a significant amount of sludge accumulates in the ground, it must be siphoned in a timely manner;
  2. high oxygen content in water, and especially active oxygen, prevents the development of columnaria, therefore the installation of an oxidizer in an aquarium with fish that easily become ill with columnaria is a simple and effective means of preventing this disease;
  3. when quarantining fish in a quarantine tank, salting water is a good preventive measure: up to 2-3 g / l (for those species that salting is easy to withstand);
  4. in soft water, flexibacteriosis develops worse than in hard and acidic water – worse than in alkaline water, therefore the pH of the water should be maintained near the border of the lowest values ​​of the physiological optimum for this type, for example, for guppies, swordtails, platillas – these are pH values ​​of about 6 , 8 – 7.0;

The disease is easily diagnosed, so you need to purchase specialized medicine and follow the instructions on the package. An additional reservoir may be required for dilution of water-medicinal baths, where the sick fish is placed.

Often, manufacturers include the substance phenoxyethanol, which also suppresses fungal infection, which is especially important if the aquarist confuses a bacterial infection with a similar fungal infection.

The use of antibiotics and nitrofurans gives the best results in the treatment of columnaria. It is possible to treat both in an otsadnik (quarantine capacity), and in the general aquarium.

In this case, the need to control ammonia and nitrite using aquarium tests. When ammonia appears, you can use ammonia or another ammonia-binding agent and continue treatment.

With the appearance of nitrites, treatment with antibacterial drugs in the general aquarium should be stopped and fractional water changes should be initiated with the addition of nitrifying bacteria, as well as the use of Sulfur Toxivec. Treatment of sick fish can be continued in a separate container.
Chloramphenicol and kanamycin are active against columnaria causing bacteria. Both the one and the other medicine can be bought at a regular pharmacy.

First, use chloramphenicol in a dosage of 500 mg per 20 liters of water. Three or four applications, one day after a partial water change (about a quarter of the volume of the aquarium).

The treatment will be more successful if simultaneously with chloramphenicol add nystatin from the calculation of 500,000 units per 50 l. If after four drug injections the flexibacteriosis does not completely disappear, then kanamycin should be used at a dosage of 1 g per 25 liters. Kanamycin to contribute in the same way as chloramphenicol. At the same time, fish food should be soaked in vetto ferment or use specially prepared Artemia eggs, as well as bloodworms on vetto ferment.

The use of vetoma will prevent the development of dysbacteriosis and strengthen the immunity of fish. It is better to treat fish with these antibiotics in a separate tank, since their introduction into the general aquarium will almost certainly bring biological balance there.

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