Oscar breathing heavily

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lnl311 created the topic: Oscar breathing heavily

I'm in need of help.

I have two oscars (7 in long, approx 4 years old), one jack dempsey and one pleco in a 120gal tank. Bio balls used for filtration with water circulator (fan?) and a couple air stones. No live plants. They have been in this tank for almost 2 years. I treat the water with prime, use salt regularly and keep the temperature between 82-86F. I also use garlic drops daily. The oscars will only eat the freeze dried jumbo krill and the dempsey eats the jumbofin floating sticks (the red ones).Occasionally I will feed them frozen silverside but I haven't done that in months.

I was out of town for memorial day weekend and had a housesitter. When I returned I realized one of my oscars was not eating. This went on for a week or so then I noticed she was breathing heavily and has ragged fins with some white spots. There were no red lines so I decided to treat for parasites. I checked the water conditions (using the API freshwater master test kit) and they were as follows pH 6.6, NH3 0, nitrite 0, nitrates between 80-140ppm (hard to tell which one). I did a 50% water change and started treated with API general cure. Every 48 hours I would do another 25% water change and retreat with the general cure. Yesterday she was looking much better, was swimming and her fins are starting to heal (still not eating). Today when I woke up she was lying on the bottom breathing heavily again so I rechecked water parameters and everything was the same except the nitrates were at 80ppm. I did another 50% water change and did another general cure treatment (I had planned on doing 10 days in total). I started panicking that perhaps this was a bacterial infection and decided to start primafix and melafix. However, I have been wondering if I should quarantine her and use stronger antibiotics. I don't have a hospital tank so I would have to go buy one. I thought I would see if anyone had any advice. I'm posting some pics below.

Also, I had to euthanize a jack dempsey about a month ago because he had been beaten up pretty bad. I don't think he had any infections.
Thanks for your help.


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Poseidon2.0 replied the topic: Oscar breathing heavily

Hi lnl311. Welcome to OFL. Best thing to do is continue with the water changes, upping them to 75% even. Stop adding salt. It is just going to stress your fish out and add to the total dissolved solids (TDS) in the water. At 4yrs old your oscars should be around 12 inches so are likely stunted due to living in poor water conditions and over crowding. Don't add any more meds just lots of water changes. Every two or three days until you get things under control.

Your nitrates are too high and should be 20ppm or below. One thing that might contribute to it is that you have a lot of substrate and it is going to trap a lot of dirt and contribute to the higher nitrate levels. You only need a thin layer of it, especially since you have no plants.

You might consider adding a product like API Nitrazorb or Seachem Purigen, both which help reduce nitrates. But doing the other things outlined should significantly improve the water conditions and eventually the health of your oscars.

Rehousing the Jack and the pleco are going to benefit the oscars as they will reduce the bioload.

Good luck and report back.
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lnl311 replied the topic: Oscar breathing heavily

Thanks Poseidon,

It's possible that she is much bigger than 7 inches. I wasn't by my tank when I wrote the post. I'll have my husband measure her and will report back. I'm also guessing at her age. I've had her for 3 years and I inherited her from my previous landlord.

I put nitrazorb in the tank yesterday (I forgot to add that to the post). Since I'm still treated with general cure I am only doing water changes every other day to maintain the bioavailability of the medication. Should I stop the med and just do water changes? She has 3 days left to complete a 10 day course. I'm just concerned because she was looking better even with high nitrates and now she has deteriorated again even thought the water parameters have gotten better. Would putting her in a hospital tank and doing daily water changes stress her too much? Should I continue the melafix and primafix? I know I have a lot of questions but this is the first time she has been sick.

Also, at about day 3 of treatment I noticed some fluffy balls on the bottom of the tank that looked like cotton balls that I assumed were part of her BM. Then yesterday when I was suctioning the rocks I swear I saw a couple of worms. Should I worry about this. Could this just be the parasites leaving her body?
Thanks.
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Poseidon2.0 replied the topic: Oscar breathing heavily

It doesn't really sound like your Os are sick exactly, but are suffering from poor water conditions (and are becoming sick). Fresh water will make them feel infinitely better and meds generally just stress fish out and shouldn't be used unless there is something acute or a concern for parasites (which doesn't seem to be the case here).

It may be that you are over feeding them. The fluffy balls are likely old, uneaten food covered in fungus.

Can you state what your filtration is? I mean what model of filters that you have on your tank? May be that you are also under filtered
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lnl311 replied the topic: Oscar breathing heavily



This is the picture of the white fluffy mass she pooped a few days ago. There have since been a few others. I'm pretty good about pulling out any shrimp they don't eat so I don't think it is decaying food.

The filter system I use is the bio ball wet dry. It came with the tank from a local fish store that is very good (not petsmart, petco). I don't know the specifics but I can get a picture and post it if that will give more information. I do have a bag of crushed coral in the system to help balance the pH naturally. When I first got the tank I couldn't get the pH under 8. I have been using the coral for about 18 months without any issues.

All of my other fish are fine; she is the only one that is acting strangely.

I don't think I can re-home the Jack or the pleco. I have considered getting another tank but room at my house is an issue lol.
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lnl311 replied the topic: Oscar breathing heavily

This is their tank


This is a pic of a similar filter I found online


The tank has two inputs to the filter on either side (you can see the large black tubes in the back of the tank) which go to the filter. In the filter there is a filter pad, then the bioballs, and now the nitrazorb and lastly the crushed coral. There are two outputs going back to the tank on either side. I have thought about dismantling the filter and rinsing out the filter media. The guy who set up my tank told me never to do this but I'm wondering if that is the problem. In the prior tank (55 gallon) I had a fluval canister that I would dismantle regularly. Do you have any experience with bioballs?

Also, this is an old picture of my tank. My oscars decided they didn't like most of the decorations so the majority of them have been removed; aside from a few plants that they seem to like and the coral hiding spot for me pleco and Jack.
I really appreciate your advice.
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Poseidon2.0 replied the topic: Oscar breathing heavily

Your other fish may appear fine, but clearly your water is not in good shape and their health will not last in the long term under your current conditions. I strongly suggest you remove most of the gravel as well as all the feces that has accumulated and will have gotten trapped below the gravel (in your photo I can see lots of pleco feces as well as the oscar's).

You should have at least 10 x filtration (i.e.,, 120 gallon aquarium should have 1200 or more gph flow rate with a combination of mechanical and bio filtration. Anything less in a tank as overstocked as yours is will run into trouble. I have 1800 gph flowing through a 75 gallon with one oscar in it, to give you some perspective. Find out what the flow rate of your filters are and add more as needed.

Fish should not live in water that is higher than 20ppm nitrate. Just not healthy for them in the long term. At this point, stop the meds and do lots of water changes and get rid of 80-90% of your substrate. You will see improvements with your fish if you do that. I am sure others will chime in. As well. These are standard suggestions that many others on the list would make as well.

Good luck!
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lnl311 replied the topic: Oscar breathing heavily

Thanks for you advice. I will likely remove some of the substrate when I get home. I'm really good about removing their poop from the tank and any uneaten food because I know it throws everything off. The pic was right after a bowel movement and I wanted to take a picture before I cleaned it up because of the weird white ball. Interestingly enough, I had some time at work today and I was reading about bioball filtration systems. And, contrary to what I was told, the balls do have to be cleaned. So when I get home tonight, I plan to clean 1/4 of them (it was advised to only do 1/4 at a time so as not to disturb the biological filter). I will continue water changes and hopefully she will perk back up soon. I was just at a loss with the nitrates and her symptoms. I've had them for 3 years now and I've never had a problem. I guess going out of town was likely a bad idea.
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Suprd71 replied the topic: Oscar breathing heavily

Hello and welcome to the site. Solid advice from P, water quality is the issue here. Filtration is lacking, especially from a mechanical point. You need 1, 2 is better Aquaclear 110 hob's to help the sump. I would remove all that gravel, its likely filthy. Barebottom tank until fish health improves. Another issue you have is Oscars diet. Omnivorous cichlids should not have steady helpings of high protein(fd krill). We can help later with that, get back to us for a better menu. For now, clean water and tank is the goal. Good luck, keep us posted, there is plenty of help available.


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lnl311 replied the topic: Oscar breathing heavily

Hi Suprd71, thanks for the reply.

I probably should have said that I suction the gravel constantly. I do one side of the tank during one water change and the other side during the other. I do removal all ornamentals occasionally and rinse them in aquarium water to remove any debris. However, I will remove all of the gravel later.

One question. Did you mean that I should buy 2 of the filters you recommended (they are the ones that sit on the top of the aquarium)? Before I make the purchase I just wanted to check.

Also, my oscars are crazy picky and will only eat the freeze dried shrimp. They used to eat a better variety (I used to even feed them veggies) but then they started to refuse anything else. Once she is better I would love recommendations for a better diet and perhaps ways to get her to eat. Thanks!
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