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FAQs about Ariid Catfishes, aka Columbian, Silver-Tipped-... "Sharks" Disease/Health

Related Articles: Marine, Brackish & Freshwater Catfishes (Columbian, Silver-Tipped, Black Fin... "Sharks") of the Family Ariidae by Bob Fenner, Columbian Shark Catfishes and other Ariidae by Neale Monks,

Related FAQs: Ariid Cats 1, Ariid Cats 2, Ariid ID, Ariid Behavior, Ariid Compatibility, Ariid Selection, Ariid Systems, Ariid Feeding, Ariid Reproduction, Marine Catfishes, Catfishes in General

Ick Cure     10/12/19
Good Moring,
Can I use ick cure in my tank that has a Columbian catfish in it.
<The API product? I would NOT use Malachite Green on scaleless catfishes...
Instead, a real cure can be effected here by raising temperature, and possibly adding sea salt. Please READ here:
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>
Ick Cure /Neale       10/12/19

Good Moring,
Can I use ick cure in my tank that has a Columbian catfish in it.
<I can think of absolutely no reason why you would have to. None at all.
Columbian Shark Catfish are brackish to marine catfish, any above SG 1.002, Whitespot/Ick parasites simply won't survive. The free-living stages will be killed immediately, which means, at tropical temperatures, infected Catfish moved into brackish or marine conditions should be completely free of Whitespot/Ick within a week or so. Conversely, if you're keeping the Columbian Sharks in a saltwater system, moving them temporarily into low-end brackish or even hard freshwater should kill off the marine Ick, Cryptocaryon, within a few days as well. Oh, and if you're keeping Columbian Sharks in a plain freshwater tank, then don't. Just don't. Add the salt, and the Whitespot will go! Cheers, Neale.>

Columbian catfish with stomach bulge      4/7/17
Hello, I have a 120 gallon tank with 2 Columbian catfish about 8 inches long.
<Nice size tank for these brackish/marine catfish!>
I also have 2 rainbow fish, an albino rainbow shark, 3 baby Bala sharks and a gourami.
<Bit confused why you're keeping your Colombian Shark with freshwater fish.
You do realise that Colombian Sharks will not be healthy (or happy) in freshwater? Adding enough salt to keep the catfish happy will kill the freshwater species. Furthermore, anything bite-sized is potential food.

While not aggressive or nippy, these catfish *are* carnivores.>
1 of the catfish has developed a lump in its stomach overnight. He is eating and swimming alright. I feed him algae pellets, flakes, bloodworms, and shrimp pellets. Everyone else in the tank looks fine. I'll attach a picture. Please let me know if there is any way to help him.
<Time. Predatory catfish are prone to overeating if you let them. Best kept with fast-moving brackish or marine fish that eat different things. Monos or Damselfish, for example. These catfish don't need feeding every day, or at least, not heavy feeding every day. They will regurgitate excess food if overfed, polluting the water.>
Thank you for your help,
<Will direct you to some urgent reading...
Easy catfish for communities of medium sized brackish and marine species, but frequently stressed (and ultimately killed) by poor care. Cheers, Neale.>

Injured Colombian Shark Catfish       1/28/16
I've read through your catfish info, very helpful, but could use your opinion on this little guy/gal. I just got a new little one (about 2") and it's got a boo boo.
<I see this>
There's a huge, for its size, hole in its side. I've been treating with MelaFix (daily)
& stress coat (not daily) for 5 days but it just doesn't seem to want to heal up. Today it's looking noticeably fluffy around the edges.
The behavior isn't strange, it's happily cruising around the quarantine tank and is eating a little bit. It does look skinny to me and I have no idea if it's the injury messing with its appetite or it just wasn't getting enough food before I got it.
Do I need to be worried about some nasty infection setting in here or do I just need to be more patient?
<Mmm; IF this fish is eating; I'd be less worried>
Attached: Image capture from video of the injured spot. It's a little blurry. Would be easier if these guys held still for a second but go go go is what they do.
Water parameters:
Salinity: 1.005
pH: 8.0
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 5ppm
GH: 100ppm
Kelley Grant
<All these values are good. I'd pick up the feeding frequency, amount and try not to worry. Bob Fenner>

Columbian shark (silver tip catfish); stkg., sys.         9/6/15
Hi I have recently fell for the Columbian sharks and despite all the effort to keep them for years on end I am determined to keep them. I purchased 2 juveniles currently about 3 inches long they are in a freshwater aquarium at this current moment but I am in the process of picking up 2 more juveniles and a larger tank intended to be just for them.
<Glad you're getting more than two. These catfish really are happy in groups. They will thrive in hard, alkaline freshwater for many months, but as you appreciate need brackish or marine conditions eventually.>

I am wondering how to set up the tank properly and also how much time I have to get them into their brackish environment before anything happens to them
<In short, if they're less than 3-4 inches in length, they'll be fine in hard, alkaline freshwater. The harder the better. Soft water is not acceptable for long. Provided they're swimming about happily and feeding greedily they're doing okay. But at some point you'll notice them "treading water", often close to the filter outlet. This is highly suggestive of fish trying to swim towards a stronger current like a big river, and is usually thought of as their migratory instinct. This is the time to make sure
they're in brackish water. Doesn't have to be wildly brackish at this point, SG 1.003-1.005 is fine. Then, every couple of months you can up the salinity a bit as needed, to at least 1.005 and ideally something closer to 1.010. There's a good argument for moving them into marine conditions eventually as they work nicely in FOWLR systems and the various marine fish kept in them, such as Snowflake Eels, Damsels and Wrasse. Of course they also work well in regular brackish systems with Scats, Monos, Archers, Sleeper Gobies, and various other oddball fish.>
currently they are housed in a 30 gallon tank just them and a very small clown Pleco
<If he's very small, he's dinner.>
and I also was hoping you could inform me of any signs to look for on their swimming patterns or actions that would indicate that something is wrong with them
<See above. Treading water implies they want more space, more current, more salinity, or some combination of these.>
your help would be greatly appreciated none of them places who sell these fish know anything about them aside from their cost
<Do have a read here:
And follow the links on those pages. These catfish are very peaceful, very easy to keep, and very beautiful. I can't think of a single fish more like a shark than these cats, yet unlike real sharks they're hardy and low-maintenance. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Columbian Shark Catfish; hlth., sys.         9/8/15
Hi Neale,
I wondered if you could take a look at these pictures and tell me if I he white spots and face of my smaller cat shark seem something more than scratches from the ornaments in the tank?....
<Nope, scratches from the ornaments and/or gravel. While nothing to be overly worried about, smooth gravel, ideally a fair amount of marine aquarium sand mixed in, makes a better substrate. In any case, raising the salinity will usually eliminate parasites (which I don't think these are) and even mild brackish water tends to keep Finrot and Fungus at bay except in the worst cases. As an aside, when kept in marine conditions, lowering the salinity works just as well for eliminating marine parasites.>
Also, my bigger one does this thing where he stares at me treading water than open and closes his mouth like in the photo...seems ok, right?
<Well, common behaviour anyway. Shark Cats are migratory. They're actually amazing fish for lots of reasons, for example, did you know some scientists believe that they use a primitive sort of echolocation like dolphins? To be fair others argue that they make these low level sounds for communication instead. Either way, it's cool. But my point is that these fish have a lot
more going on inside them than the average aquarium fish! Strong water currents are important to their psychological well being otherwise they go "stir crazy". Adding one or two powerheads or internal filters is a great way to boost the water current and make the tank more exciting. Make it so the fish don't have just one place with moving water. Adding companions of their own kind (which you're doing) and even other fish (such as Monos) that keep them on their toes will help. Saltwater fishermen consider Shark Cats "bait stealers". These are fish with intense curiosity and insatiable appetites, moving in and out of rivers all day (and night) and never for a moment just sitting there doing nothing. When I was in Belize I watched them mooching about the canal at the end of the hotel garden begging for food, but at the same time anything that moved suddenly would send them down into the depths. If it isn't obvious, I absolutely adore these catfish, and would encourage you to spend a little time online learning about the Ariidae generally to better keep, and more thoroughly enjoy,
these catfish as pets. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Columbian Shark Catfish        9/8/15

So, SO glad to have found you. The "Expert" at That Fish Place in Lancaster, PA (they are supposed to be all that) tried convincing me that while they may do better in marine, they can completely adapt to freshwater, just as their "Mollie's" have done. He embarrassed me quite a bit I front of other customers, so conceded. I was increasing the salinity slowly, but as a result, began to decrease to obtain a freshwater habitat again. Well, he's wrong. Period. These guys started acting exactly as you've shared on your site. They most definitely need salt. Thank you!!
<Glad to help. All the best, Neale.>


Thanks for the information on Silver Tipped Sharks     10/17/12
Sadly my silver tipped shark "Bluto", expired today after a valiant fight.
<Too bad.>
I think fungus overtook him and had I read the information on this site earlier I am sure he would still be alive.
<Could well be the case.>
While I was putting aquarium salt in the water each time I changed it, I am sure it wasn't enough to make it brackish.
<I see.>
Further, the tank was too small and I likely didn't clean it as often as I should have.
I had him for 3 and a half years and about 6 months ago his annoyance with fungus began. He was a big, beautiful healthy fish and my favourite. He will be missed.  Thank you for sharing your knowledge about these good natured and lovely fish.
<Among my favourites.>
If I get another one I will know how to take better care of him once he becomes an adult.
<Hmm… do read:
Cheers, Neale.>

Help black tipped shark catfish dying    1/26/12
I have a 60 gallon bow front and 2-7" shark cats. I have had these 2 for a little over a year. Today when I arrived home from work they were both nearing death with scratches on them and what looks like a slime covering their body. All of their fins were shredded, swollen anuses, a film over their eyes, and these guys have been in great health up until today. About 3 weeks ago I lost my first fish in years in this tank. He was a 7" electric blue acai cichlid. I am concerned about what is causing this. I did a 50% water change, added some salt, and dosed the tank with Melafix. Symptoms are unnoticed until they are floating and I watch my fish nightly.
Thanks in advance for any help.
<Hello Dash. Need some information on this aquarium, in particular, water chemistry and salinity. Shark Catfish are brackish to marine animals, so you need quite strongly brackish water for them to do well. Given you have a freshwater cichlid with them, my assumption is that you've tried to keep them in freshwater -- something you shouldn't do. Furthermore, adding "some salt" doesn't really tell me very much about the salinity. The specific gravity should be SG 1.003-5 for juveniles up to about 10 cm/4 inches in length, and above that, you really do need around half-strength seawater (SG 1.010) to fully marine conditions. Get and use a hydrometer, and then test the salinity. Do read:
Do also review your choice of medication; Melafix isn't much rated as a cure, despite it's cheap price and attractive marketing. At best, it's a preventative, something to use if a fish is damaged by transit or fighting
but not yet infected or sick. My guess would be these fish are sick because of a poor environment, and until you fix their world, they aren't going to get any better. Cheers, Neale.>

My Columbian shark refuses to eat   9/24/11
Hey there guys,
I've been reading your website quite a bit for the past few months to learn more about my fish, and it's really helped me a lot. However, I haven't found a satisfying answer to a serious problem that I hope you can help me resolve. Three weeks ago, My house lost power during Irene for about a day and a half. My tank is a 75 gallon brackish setup (s.g. 1.008 at the moment, increasing it by about 0.001 each week with water changes) with two Columbian Shark catfish; one is 8 inches and the other is about 4.
<They are notably gregarious, and it's not impossible for the fact there's just two of them to be causing some degree of stress.>
Ever since we got our power back, my bigger catfish has absolutely refused to eat, and his behavior has changed (though the smaller one seems completely fine). Rather than swimming peacefully with his tankmate, he thrashes around the tank frantically in tiny circles and is easily spooked. He also keeps opening his mouth really widely, as if he is yawning.
<Does he swim into the outflow from the filter? This often happens, and may indicate a migratory instinct. Big tanks, strong filters, and higher salinities all seem to help. Adults are more or less marine fish.>
Also, his anus appears to be slightly inflamed and reddish,
and he is beginning to look emaciated.
<Doesn't sound good.>
I have done everything I can possibly conceive to help persuade him to eat.
I did a 50% water change that week on top of my usual weekly 1/3 water change and tested the water, but I haven't detected any ammonia or nitrite.
Nitrate is about 40 last I checked, but that was before I did a 1/3 water change a few days ago. I gave him frozen bloodworms and squid, but he refused that too.
<Try bits of white fish fillet and prawns, these are favourites. And just before a water change, try small bits of oily fish like salmon and mackerel, as these seem very popular but they are messy.>
I put activated carbon back in my filters this week after I read about the possibility of bad water being fed into the tank from the filters after the outage. So far, no change. Is it possible there is a toxin still in the water that is bothering him?
Or maybe he has an infection or parasite?
<If you haven't added any new fish, then it's unlikely. I assume you don't use feeder fish, because they're an obvious source of trouble and should never be used. Do try raising the salinity substantially. As they approach adult size, these ariids would swim pretty much to the sea, inhabiting estuaries and coastal waters, and adults never seem happy in anything less than SG 1.010 at 25 C. Next up, you might consider an Epsom salt treatment for constipation, 1 tablespoon per 5 gallons, ideally alongside a dewormer.>
If so, what medicine should I give him? Could he have swallowed some gravel and it's lodged in his GI tract?
<Conceivable, but unlikely.>
If so, is there anything I can do to get it out or help him pass it (like a laxative)?
<Epsom salt plus unshelled crustaceans such as whole krill and whole brine shrimp; these strict carnivores are unlikely to take peas, but it's worth a shot. Do bear in mind the whole Thiaminase issue with carnivores, and it's crucial their diet is balanced and doesn't include too many Thiaminase-rich foods.
I'm running out of ideas and I'm desperate to help him however I can.
<Have asked Bob for advice here; he may have seen similar with other marine predators. You may also want to contact the folks at PlanetCatfish; again, someone there may have encountered this with predatory cats such as Pimelodids. Cheers, Neale.>

Columbian sharks acting very strange...  2/18/10
I am an owner of 2 Columbian sharks that I have bought about 3 months ago.
<Nice fish. Often badly maintained, but in the right tank, very pretty and peaceful. They are highly sociable though, so I'd recommend keeping at least three. They do grow quite fast, and will eventually get to about
20-30 cm/8-12 inches in length. Wild fish are supposedly a bit bigger.>
I bought them from a small tropical fish store where the owner seemed to be very helpful to me as to setting up the tank.
The sharks are about 4 1/2 in. now and have been in brackish water the whole time.
<Define "brackish water" for me. I ask because some people think it means adding a teaspoon of salt per gallon. It does not. In broad terms, these catfish are more marine than freshwater fish, so they need quite a lot of salt to do well. Juveniles are fine around the SG 1.005 at 25 degrees C mark, or about 9 grammes of marine salt mix per litre (about 1.2 oz. per US gal.) but specimens above half adult size will need about twice as much salt, around SG 1.010, or 15.5 grammes marine salt mix per litre (about 2 oz. per US gal.). Let's be clear about how much salt this is. One level teaspoon of marine salt mix weighs roughly 6 grammes, so even at the low end, that's 1.5 level teaspoons per litre. There are 3.79 litres to the US gallon, so that's about 5.7 teaspoons per US gallon, or a little under 2 tablespoons per US gallon. In fact you shouldn't just be weighing or spooning salt mix this way, but using a hydrometer as well to check the specific gravity. A basic floating glass hydrometer costs around $5, and used properly, is perfectly adequate for this sort of fishkeeping.>
The owner of the store told me that I do not need to keep track of the pH levels as long as I change the water once every month, which I have been doing consistently.
<Hmm... in general, yes, if you do regular water changes, pH changes should be relatively minor. If you're using adequate marine salt mix -- not tonic or aquarium salt -- then again, pH should be controlled automatically by
the carbonate hardness in the marine salt mix. But monthly water changes aren't generally recommended. It's better to do weekly water changes around 20-25%, wherever possible.>
Recently, I bought an algae eater fish to go into the tank because the algae was becoming a problem. It has been doing fine.
<If you have an algae eater in this tank, you ARE NOT adding enough salt.>
I also had an Ick problem, but just recently cleared that up.
<If Ick/Whitespot can live in this tank, you ARE NOT adding enough salt.
Salt is used to treat Ick, so the sheer fact you had Ick at all implies the salinity is far too low.>
I feed them 1 cube of frozen blood worms a day, and they seem to like those very much.
<Yes they do, but they need a more varied diet. Add good quality catfish pellets to the mix, plus a variety of seafood (cockles and strips of white fish like tilapia being especially nutritious). Prawns and mussels are enjoyed, but these contain a lot of thiaminase, so should be used sparingly.>
Just when I thought my sharks are nice and healthy, they start to act very strange.
<This is a VERY hardy species that usually survives all kinds of disasters, but it's behaviour is a very good clue to its unhappiness.>
They are both continuously swimming forward towards the glass and won't stop until they eat. Sometimes, one sits in the bubbles(from the oxygen making thing) under the heater. That one also likes to go in a corner and put his nose in the corner of the tank while swimming straight up. Is this regular behavior? Or are they sick??
<They're trying to migrate downstream, towards the sea. Make sure the tank is salty enough, big enough, and equipped with enough water current for them to feel at home. For a trio of specimens, I'd be looking at a 350
litre/75 US gal. system with a robust filter rated at not less than 8 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour, and ideally more current than even that. The specific gravity should be at least 1.005, which is lethal to freshwater fish like Plecs and Gyrinocheilus "loaches", so remove the algae eater. If you want algae eaters in this tank, a mix of brackish water Nerites and large Sailfin Mollies will do the trick nicely.>
Thank you for your time!
<Do try to get a look at my brackish water book. Your local library should be able to get a copy, even if you don't want to buy it. There's a whole chapter about brackish water catfish. Cheers, Neale.> 
Re: Columbian sharks acting very strange...  2/18/10

To answer your answer of the brackish water, the place I got them from told be to put 1 tablespoon of non iodized salt per gallon, do I need to increase the amount?
<Yes. Read my message, It'll tell you how much MARINE SALT MIX to use. Not non-iodised salt, tonic salt, aquarium salt or cooking salt. Marine salt mix, as you'd use in a marine aquarium. This is crucial, because brackish
water isn't brine. It's not water with a bit of salt added. It's a mix of freshwater and seawater, and the marine salt mix doesn't just add sodium chloride but also alkalinity and pH buffers. It's very different stuff.
Goes without saying that adding enough marine salt mix to make Colombian Sharks happy will stress/kill any freshwater fish and plants. Remember, these catfish are marine fish that tolerate freshwater for a while. Not
freshwater fish at all. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Sciades seemanni and Mono Questions  3/8/10
So the other Sciades Seemanni did die.
<Sorry to hear that..>
The bulge in his stomach went away and he was swimming fine for a day. Then the reverse happened, his stomach started to look sunken in. One hour he was fine and dead the next. I think it was due to the quality of fish.
<Possible, or else it was maintained in freshwater conditions for too long.>
I made the mistake of buying the fish at PetSmart. They must have had problems before I got them home.
<Does happen. Like many brackish water fish, if maintained in dirty water, or kept in soft water conditions, these catfish can become very weak. Look for lively specimens with bright colours, especially white bellies, and avoid any with sunken eyes or unusual dark patches.>
A couple days ago I went to a better fish store and picked up a new catfish. I acclimated him over 10 hours and he and the original cat in my tank are doing great.
The big cat I have had for 2 years is tons more active and you can hear both fish grunting.
<Neat, isn't it! Do look at the upcoming 'Conscientious Aquarist' that should be up on this site within the week. There's a whole article on the Ariidae catfish. Some scientists believe these catfish are not just communicating, but echolocating, like dolphins.>
Thanks for the help!
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Sciades seemanni and Mono Questions, hlth, env. of cats    3/17/10

I read the article about the Seemanni in the magazine. It was very informative.
<Good to hear.>
I do have one other question for you. I did a major cleaning in my tank before adding the smaller cats. The large Sciades Seemanni had a cloudy eye for a day and then it cleared up.
The cleaning stirred up the tank and was fairly intense so it probably stressed the cat.
<Perhaps. These are estuarine fish, so in theory, they're pretty good at adapting to sudden changes. But that said, if the tank is rather small, and you're moving your hands about the tank a lot, then they could feel pursued.>
I do not know if it was the cleaning or the addition of 2 small cats but the large cat rarely eats.
<Likely stress rather than company.>
He used to eat anything and everything, now I can barely get him to take silversides and krill. He has eaten a couple of krill in the past 2 weeks and only a few mixed pellets. The small ones are eating fine. The large one does not seem stressed but I can put a large silverside in front of him and he wants nothing to do with it. He used to go crazy for them. Any ideas as to what is going on?
<Remind me again what the salinity is. Almost always, when brackish water fish go off their food, it's because they're not happy with the environment they find themselves in. At minimum, check the pH and the specific gravity.
For a subadult Colombian Shark, you should be well above SG 1.005, and realistically around 1.010. The pH should be firmly in the basic range, 7.5 to 8.2 being ideal.>
He is eating enough to survive...maybe, but maybe only a 5th or 10th of what he used to. Thanks guys. I only recently found WetWebMedia.com and am loving it. It is a great resource.
<Happy we can help. Cheers, Neale.>  

White scar?    1/10/10
Hello. I recently lost my Columbian sharks (my mother left a window open in below freezing weather when she was fish sitting). I cleaned, and re-cycled my tank for a week. I just (last night) purchased 5 new sharks
<I hope you have a large system>
(I decided they were the only fish I was going to keep). They are about 2 inches each, I felt bad at the petstore because they had these 5, about 10 pufferfish and 3 or 4 Monos in a 10 gallon tank. I bought all the sharks. I have them in a 30 gallon tank right now (and they are the only fish I have in there) and will be upgrading to a 90 gallon marine tank in about a year. They seem to be very happy with the swimming space for now, its quite a lot more then they are used to.
My question, I purchased these guys last night, and one of them (I named him Doug) has a large white spot on his back, I thought it was a scar
<I think so too>
(its not Ich) Last night the spot also had a white line down to his belly. upon closer inspection it looks like a few of the other fish have the start of a similar condition. The white line on Doug, seems to have all but disappeared, the spot is there still.
I didn't know if this is a skin disease, I thought maybe it could be Columnaris?
<Not likely>
I've never had a fish with that before and looking at pictures online didn't help since the sharks are scaleless fish. I wanted to fix this problem as fast as possible, it would be silly to quarantine him since the rest of them have all been exposed and probably need treatment as well.
<Mmm, no... maybe a bit of sea salt... but not other exposure>
My best guess is they didn't have marine salt in the water at the petstore, or not enough salt. I started the tank (for these guys) at 1.005 gravity and wanted to increase it gradually.
Should I increase it faster (I don't know if that would help the skin problem). I'm trying to include a picture this morning (as an attachment).
<At this size (the fish), I would not increase the Spg...>
Thanks for your opinion.
<Please give this area a read: http://wetwebmedia.com/ariidcats.htm
and the linked files above, particularly Health/Disease. Bob Fenner>

Columbian Sharks in need of help!  11/16/07 Hi, my name is Francis. <Hello Francis,> I have been reading through your site and I am quite angry at the pet store where I bought the Columbian Sharks. I bought 3 of them almost a year ago as they are beautiful sharks. The guy at the pet store told me I needed Aquarium salt in the tank to keep them alive, after reading your site and the conditions they need I'm not happy with the pet store as they didn't inform me about the fact that when they start growing into adulthood they need to be in a marine tank and that they can grow up to 24" in length, but I don't care how big they can grow I just wanted to know that when I bought them I would have all the right conditions to keep them healthy in their new home. <Colombian sharks (Sciades seemanni) really don't need a marine aquarium. Half-strength seawater, around SG 1.010, is more than adequate. Space, water quality, carbonate hardness, and plenty of water current seem to be more important. In the wild these fish migrate in and out of the estuary and far upstream into freshwater. They are not as completely marine when mature as some of the other Ariidae such as the Gafftopsail catfish Bagre marinus. But being migratory, they need to swim, and you want to have masses of strong pumps to provide plenty of exercise. The powerheads used in marine tanks are ideal, but otherwise install filters with around 10 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour.> This being from a 'reputable' big name pet store who claim to train their employees on everything they need to know about the fish that they are selling so they can help the customer choose the right fish for the conditions of the tank that they are going to be living in. <Sadly an all too common experience.> Everything was going fine until about 2 months ago l lost one of the sharks and then the remaining 2 started developing almost like scars on their skin both top and bottom. I have been searching since then to find out if its a disease or not but none of the diseases I read describe these particular marks on the fish. I have added 2 pictures I took to see if maybe one of you guys or someone you know have come across a symptom like this. One shows the under side of the sharks and the other shows the sharks from the side. <I have never seen anything like this. At a guess, I'd suggest a secondary infection caused by improper water chemistry. Raising the salinity and using an antibiotic or antibacterial would be my recommendation.> I really like these fish and do not want them to die so I'll be going out to buy them a new tank which I can setup as a marine tank. They are currently in a 55 gallon tank with 3 cichlids, 2 pictus catfish one spotted and one striped. <Hmm... while some cichlids are salt-tolerant, most Pimelodidae are not, and P. pictus certainly isn't. So, the way forward here would definitely be to re-home some/all of these fish and then raise the salinity of the tank to at least SG 1.005, and ideally 1.010, over the next few weeks (to give the bacteria time to adjust). If you let me know the cichlids, I can tell you if they're salt tolerant or not.> I thought at first that it might be the cichlids or the other catfish attacking the sharks but I setup a camera linked to my computer to record the activity in the tank 24 hours a day for the past week but neither the cichlids or the catfish bother the sharks. <Most animals tend to leave Colombian sharks alone. They make a clicking noise when alarmed, and that is off-putting to a lot of fish.> Anyway sorry for the long winded question but any help at all to save these guys and find out what's wrong with them would be greatly appreciated! <Can you tell me something about the water chemistry at the moment?> Thanks
<Cheers, Neale>

Colombian shark - emergency treatment 09/28/07 I was just in contact with you about a filtration issue in a 75-gallon freshwater tank. Regardless, inside are 2 8-inch Colombian sharks, for whom I am preparing a brackish tank all their own. The tank is not ready at all, and a very sudden illness has floored one of my sharks... <BioSpira (bacteria from the LFS fridge if you are in the USA) or a filter (alternatively only some filter material) from another brackish tank can be used to instantly cycle the tank.> I'm scared to death, as it all happened so fast. 2 days ago I noticed a notch out of his tail fin, like a small nip, with no white ridge, and a clean white bare spot on his head, like he was rubbing against something. He was swimming very sluggishly, so I turned off the light and fed a bit of shrimp (a fave food), which he totally ignored. The next morning he appeared to have a SERIOUS tail rot affliction, so I set up my 10-gallon hospital tank and purchased Maracyn-Two in preparation. Sure enough, this morning he was gasping for air at the bottom of the tank, with a red-ringed white lump on the underside of his head (next to his outer whiskers), frayed tail fin, and a semi-bloated belly. During the middle of the night, he woke me up splashing around, and he rammed full-force into the tank hood... I was horrified. I prepared the H-tank and sat up for a couple of hours with him, but he barely moved - just gasping for air with the occasional gill convulsion. I'm almost sure it's a bacterial infection. <I agree.> But as I treat him with Maracyn-Two, I would like to know if you have heard anything similar. <Sure. Such can happen to all fishes in the wrong environment. First, their immune system declines, then bacterial infections occur.> I have also added 5 teaspoons of marine salt to the hospital tank, in hopes to comfort him. <Add more, Id start with 3 grams per litre.> I have half-dosed him on the medication for now as not to shock him. <Id dose antibiotics as recommended or use them as daily 1-2 hour baths at 5-10 times the concentration.> Thank you for any advice you may be able to give me. <Sorry to hear about you catfish. Does not sound good. Hope he pulls through, but your description sounds like a severe infection. At least you have increased the salinity, set up a hospital tank and used antibiotics. That is more than most people would have done. Id increase salinity further and dose antibiotics as recommended.> Tank parameters: 75 gal; 20 ppm nitrates (I do weekly 50% water changes, it fluctuates between 10 and 20); 0 ammonia/trite; very hard, very alkaline well water; 78 degrees. The hospital tank contains 30% of that tank water plus 70% new water. ~Meech PS - I have a side question. What are your opinions on these two products: Melafix and Wonder Shell? I have heard weird, differing opinions on these and would like sound judgment (I do not use either). <Melafix basically is oil of the tea tree. Some swear on it, but I would not rely on it in severe cases. There is a medicated version Wonder Shell containing malachite green, that is probably the only active ingredient. The rest is different salts that may slightly harden up the water. No real wonder in my opinion. Good luck. Marco.>

ID Shark Question, hlth.    5/25/07 Hi there. I am really hoping that you can help me.   I have an ID shark, who is over 14 inches long. <A good size for this species>   I know that he's gone blind, which I understand is common with these fish. <Mmm, no... not if kept in proper conditions...>   However, he appears to be able to see shadows,   and will throw many a fit in the tank (We have a 90 gallon) and knock things around.   Tonight however, he threw such a fit, and smashed into the heater, and broke it.   He has a cut just before his eyeball (it actually looks like its protruding outwards now) and his whole body is very scraped up.  My husband said that after this happened,   he freaked out so bad, and smashed himself against a rock.   He now also has a dent on the top of his head, to the side of his eye.    He now cannot swim, and is just laying at the bottom of the tank, either upside down, or on his side.   He cannot right himself at all   the other fish have picked up on his weakness, and are now starting to pick at his wounds.   I don't know what to do.   Is he done?? <Perhaps, if you don't move this specimen elsewhere>    I don't want the other fish to keep stressing him out, but I also don't know how of if we should put him out of his misery.   Being so large and all.   My husband actually held him for a while, above the air bubbles to get some extra oxygen to him, but this didn't help either.   He does try to swim at times, but then just ends up in a corner somewhere upside down or side ways.  Can you give me any advice on this?   <You have read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ariidcats.htm The linked files above?> I know with previous ID sharks that I had, I know that when their time was up, they started to change color, or lose their blackness and turn white.   He is still black.   But we are wondering if its possible that he's damaged his brain somehow, and now is just nothing????   Because if he is, then I cannot see keeping him alive as his quality of life would be no good. (Yeah, I really do care about all my fish and care about how they feel!!) <Good... so you have this fish in totally marine conditions, no nitrogenous anomalies...> So we don't know what to do here,   and if putting him out of his misery is the only option,   how could I go about doing so? <Posted> I cannot put him into a large net to keep the other fish away from him, because I know that if he starts to come around, he will freak even more if he is constricted like that, and it could end up hurting him more. Please email me back with your ideas/views.  Thank you so very much in advance. Brenda Johnson <Read on my friend, read on. Bob Fenner>

Ichy Columbian Sharks  1/29/07 <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I have 2 Colombian sharks, 3 Bala sharks, 3 rainbow sharks and a black ghost knife in a 125 gallon tank.  My problem is that I believe that my Colombians have contracted Ich from the pet store.  (I've only had them 1 day).  How can treat them for Ich?  Should I isolate them in a separate tank to treat?  Will the medicine hurt the other brother and sisters? <This is why you should ALWAYS quarantine your fish before adding them to your main tank.  Now you have opened a big can of worms.  The parasite could infect all your fish & the entire tank needs to be treated.  DO NOT USE MEDS!  the Columbian sharks & the BGK have no scales & could die from most Ich meds.  Raise the temp to 86 & add 1tbsp salt/5g.  Do huge (80%) water changes, every other day, for the next 3 weeks, while thoroughly cleaning the gravel.  Be sure to replace the salt you remove.  Treat the tank with Melafix for any secondary infection the parasite may cause.  Add a few airstones, to increase O2.  Another problem you have here, is those Columbian sharks are brackish water fish that prefer marine conditions as adults.  They can also grow to 18".  Good luck.  ~PP>

Arius seemanni dis./injury, beh.   8/1/06 Hey Guys,    I think your web site is great and I have learned a lot from you guys. Anyway I have a Arius seemanni he is about 6.5in and mostly just swims around the top of my tank. <Is a social species... should be kept in a small grouping> The other day he jumped out I was luckily there and put him back into the tank, he immediately started swimming like nothing happened. I did notice that his eyes where kind of foggy and he seemed to bump into stuff more often. <Likely "rubbed" its eyes... damaging them> But as of today 6/28 his eyes look good and I was told he had an infection.  What do you think? <I would do nothing in the way of chemical additions here... Likely will self-cure...> Also he is in full saltwater and all the water parameters are perfect.  He has no other catfish friends and I was wondering if he would be happy and school with coral catfish? <Mmm, no... Birds/catfishes of a feather/fin flock/school together... Better to have others of the same species... even if they start off considerably smaller in size> If so how many should I get? thank you for your and knowledge Joe <Bob Fenner>

Fin trouble? Ariid Catfish dis., env.    7/28/06 Hello! <<Greetings, Lou. Tom>> I have a black tipped shark whose dorsal fin is getting very ragged. <<Not playing "semantic gymnastics" here, Lou, but I'm assuming this is a Black Fin Shark (Columbian Cat Shark) rather than a Black Tip Shark, which is strictly a saltwater beast that grows to 10 feet in length. If I'm in error, do keep your hands out of the tank! :)>> He behaves normally and eats VERY well.  He just looks like he's been in a battle!   <<Operating off of my original premise, this is a brackish water fish that, ultimately, requires marine conditions in adulthood. You don't mention the sizes of your fish or of their tank, which might lend a little more insight but, unless you're already aware, these "puppies" get big! Since they, almost invariably, get along very well with their own kind, I don't see fighting among each other as the cause here unless stress is a factor.>> We noticed it when we returned from a two week vacation and it seems to be getting worse.  Any ideas? <<Did anyone "fish-sit" for you during your vacation? Frequently, non-fishkeepers make boo-boos while tending someone else's pets that can lead to a variety of problems.>> Our water is testing fine.   <<"Fine" isn't a lot to go on but I'll take that to mean ammonia/nitrites are at 0 and nitrates are below 20. Anything other than this isn't fine.>> He does have a buddy that's another black-tip, could the other fish have injured him? <<Again, I don't see this as likely outside of very extenuating circumstances. If you're currently adding salt to the tank, you might try upping the dosage a bit as well as increasing the temperature slightly. If you aren't adding salt, please start. Not only will this have a therapeutic effect but your fish absolutely require it to survive.>> They are always together. <<These fish enjoy each other's company, certainly.>> You have been a big help in the past!  Thank you in advance for any help with this! <<Glad to hear we've been able to help before, Lou, and, hopefully, I've given you some things to look at now.>> Lou <<Good luck. Tom>>
Re: Fin trouble? Ariid Catfish dis., env.    7/28/06
Thanks, Tom! <<Any time, Lou!>> Yes, they are black fin sharks, sorry for the goof. <<Not that big of a "goof", Lou. Just got back from my favorite fish store and even they had these listed as Black-tipped Sharks. My first reaction was, "Uh-oh!", until I saw the fish and recognized them for what they were. Whew!>> The person who "fish-sat" was experienced, so our tanks were well-monitored.  I will try adding a bit more salt.   <<Good. At this stage you should be looking at a salinity level in the range of 1.011-1.017. Probably best to keep it on the low side to begin with and gradually increase it.>> The temperature is between 80-82.  Should it be higher or is that okay? <<This is fine for now, given the circumstances. I'd back off on this after a bit of time, though. The warmer temperatures will either work, or not, in helping the fin to regenerate. If after about a week, you don't see white markings around the damaged areas that indicate healing is taking place, "s l o w l y" lower the temperature back to the 76-78 degree range.>> It certainly doesn't seem to bother the shark, but he doesn't look as good as he used to! <<Gorgeous animals at the juvenile stage. Will fade out as they become adults, though. Kind of a shame, really. Still, they are impressive.>> The sharks are about 7 inches and are in a 55-gallon for now.  (We plan to move them to a much bigger one after some remodeling is   finished.) <<You're my hero! I've yet to read a post from anyone who had a clue as to how to house/care for these fish. Perhaps I'm not reading enough but I prefer to think I was fortunate to "snag" your post. Well done!>> Thanks again! Lou <<We'll be here should the need arise. Keep up the good work. Tom>>

Treating an Open Wound on a BW Fish  7/12/06 <Hi, Pufferpunk here> Thanks for such a wonderful website. <You're welcome!> I have an 11 inch Colombian cat shark in a 55 gallon tank. <Hmmm... sounds a little tight.> He's been doing pretty well but apparently he bumped his side against a rock and now has a deep wound where his fin connects with his body. <Not enough swimming room for him in there.> He usually heals quite quickly but it has been a few days now and there is no sign of improvement. I thought the Scat might have been picking at the wound so I put the scat in a breeding trap to give the shark a chance to heal. <Awww, poor scat!> This was two days ago and nothing yet. I have been doing water changes regularly and have put Epsom salt (1Tbs/10gal) to aid the healing process to no avail. Is there anything else I can do to help the wound heal promptly? Thanks again for your assistance. <I would add Melafix to the tank.  Be sure to keep the water pristine (lots of large water changes).  At that size, your cat should be in saltwater by now.  If not already in high-end brackish water, his immune system is compromised, causing slow healing.  He is also a schooling fish & requires a much larger tank.  ~PP>
Re: Wounded Fish in BW Tank  7/14/06
Hi there! <Hi, Pufferpunk again> I just made a 3/4 water change and I'll watch him closely before medicating. <I'd add Melafix now.> I understand this is a small tank for the cat shark but at this point I can't afford the bigger tank. <Did you do any research on this species before buying/? I have a very low fish population in the hope that this would help. Also, I have 2 Aquaclear 70 filters, which I have a question about. I am using both the carbon and ammonia control inserts. The Aquaclear package reads that the inserts are only for fresh water aquariums, is this true? If so, then what sort of filtration system should I be using for this brackish tank? <Forget about using the carbon or ammonia removers.  Water changes are the best ammonia removers.  Carbon isn't necessary on FW tanks, unless removing meds with it.  Those 2 filters should suffice, as long as the sponges are rinsed weekly, with tank water.  I usually add an Eheim canister filter to tanks over 50g.  I like to stack my AC filters thus: sponge on bottom (mechanical filtration), 1" filter floss in middle (to "polish" water crystal clear) & BioMax on top (for biological filtration--rinsed about 1x/month). AC got wind of this method & started selling BioMax with their filters.  If you can get the SG up to around 1.018 or higher, add a protein skimmer.  You won't believe the gunk it pulls out!  ~PP> Thanks again for your assistance

Columbian sharks... in gen.  6/5/06 <Hi, Pufferpunk here> So we have read the many postings that you have about protozoa infections but we are not understanding some of it or we are not doing something right. We have 4 (previously 5) Columbian sharks in a 75 gal. tank. <Since they can grow up to 18" each, you may need to upgrade to a much larger tank.> 2 are about 5 in. and 2 are 4in. With them we have 10 guppies that we bread and raised, <Will eventually be eaten by the sharks> a Pleco and 1 (previously 2) Chinese algae eaters. We noticed what looked like a spider web on 1 shark and 2 days later he died and was covered in white web looking stuff. Went to pet store and found a picture of protozoan symptoms-put AP-Plus Cure -Ick in as directed-3 days later they started eating again and seemed all better. Then about 1 wk. later they stopped eating again and got lethargic and were digging their noses in the rocks again-1 of the Chinese algae eaters died and 2 guppies. We started putting the medicine in again 3 days ago but they are not responding this time-1 shark even has slime on him that just showed up today AFTER 3 days of treatment. Please help - what do we do??? Do we need to super clean out the whole tank and replace the gravel? We fear that will over stress them and they may die from that??? The little fish seem to be OK except for the 2 that died 2 days ago. Our pet stores don't have any other meds.    <Columbian sharks are brackish water fish that require marine conditions as adults.  I'm afraid as long as you are keeping them in freshwater, their immune systems will be compromised, causing disease & short lifespans.  I suggest putting them into the proper conditions for healthier, long lived fish.  substrate should be crushed coral or aragonite, to keep the pH around a steady 8.  Your FW fish will not appreciate BW conditions, especially the Pleco.  ~PP>

Ich and Black fin sharks  - 5/17/2006 Hi, <<Hi, Jennifer. Tom here.>> I have a problem that I can't seem to resolve and I'm not sure if it too late for my fish.  I have a 10g tank with 2 black fin sharks (about 2-3 inches), 2 platies, and 1 Pleco. I had 3 BF sharks, but one died (stress I think..) Also, had 3 platies but 1 died. (I think from being attacked by the other fish because one day 1 of it's side fins was half gone and it's tail fin was pretty beat up looking.  Anyhow, I noticed some bubble looking spots on the 2 BF sharks and went out and purchased an Ich treatment.  The guy at the fish store said they use it all the time and it works fast.  So I followed the 3 day process, and they seemed to look a little better.  I skipped one day as directed and am repeating the process.  This is day three and they look way worse than before.  I also haven't seen them eating and one looks as though it's mouth is fuzzy.   <<Hazarding an educated guess, Jennifer, the white spots you first noticed were the beginning stages of Columnaris. I wouldn't discount Ich, of course, but the "fuzzy" growth around the fish's mouth is Columnaris. I'd recommend you begin treating with Melafix immediately. Once this bacteria affects the organs of the fish, antibiotic treatment is in order and you're not set up for that.>> None of the other fish are affected by the Ich, just the sharks.  Could this be something else?  Are my sharks pretty much goners and if so should I put them out of their misery?  I have no idea what to do. <<Treat with Melafix and, if this takes care of the problem, find a new home for your sharks. In the proper environment and correct conditions, these fish grow to be VERY large. They're also not "true" FW fish but, rather, will require marine conditions as adults. Your Pleco is going to need a larger tank than what you have now, as well. Depending on the variety of Pleco you have, these, too, can grow quite large. Much to learn before any more purchases, Jennifer. This site is the best place to start.>> Jennifer <<Tom>>
Re: Ich and Black fin sharks
 5/18/06 <<Tom>> Thanks, I'll try the Melafix.  Yesterday I did a water change again and they seem to be back to eating like they were before (chasing off the Platies and skimming the water surface aggressively for food).  Hopefully this is a good sign. <<Yes, it is, for now. This will change as the fish mature, though, as they will tend to stay toward the bottom of the tank.>> <Umm... this "good time" will not last... this catfish is a brackish to marine species... will die soon unless moved to more suitable conditions. Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/ariidcats.htm and the linked files above> I know the Sharks are going to get rather large as well as the Pleco and will purchase a much larger tank in the future.  They are living in a brackish tank right now, I'll have to look into marine tanks and read up on the care of those.   <Oh! Sorry re... thought these were in freshwater... Loricariids/Plecos don't like/tolerate much salt... Bob Fenner> <<Sorry that you seem to be getting "double-teamed", Jennifer. Both Bob and I assumed your fish were in FW and, of course, he's right about the Pleco not tolerating "salty" conditions for long. (I apologize for the apparent conflict in information.) By way of explanation, we receive a number of questions regarding this fish - the Shark, specifically - and, admittedly, it remains to be one of my "pet peeves" among those who sell/distribute these to "unknowing" consumers. In the end, however, it is we, the aquarists, who need to research and be informed prior to purchasing. It sounds like you're aware already of what will need to be done, which is great. Hope this hasn't proved too confusing for you and we look forward to hearing from you in the future. Tom>>
Re: Ich and Black fin sharks  - 5/18/2006
Thanks, I'll try the Melafix.  Yesterday I did a water change again and they seem to be back to eating like they were before (chasing off the Platies and skimming the water surface aggressively for food).  Hopefully this is a good sign. <Umm... this "good time" will not last... this catfish is a brackish to marine species... will die soon unless moved to more suitable conditions. Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/ariidcats.htm and the linked files above> I know the Sharks are going to get rather large as well as the Pleco and will purchase a much larger tank in the future.  They are living in a brackish tank right now, I'll have to look into marine tanks and read up on the care of those.   <Oh! Sorry re... thought these were in freshwater... Loricariids/Plecos don't like/tolerate much salt... Bob Fenner>

Injured Silvertip Hi there~ I have a baffling mystery. This evening when I was feeding my fish I noticed my [smaller] Silvertip shark had a red dorsal fin. Upon closer view I can clearly see it's filled with blood. None of the other fish were picking with him and he doesn't appear to have any bites out of any of his (I assume a he) fins. This is so disheartening! I removed him from the tank he was in (all the fish in there are semi-aggressive and I didn't want them to start messing with him) and put him in the smaller community tank. There is some swelling on his body around the base of the fin and no blood is oozing out. I can't imagine what happened. None of the rocks are out of place and he hasn't been swimming erratically and bumping into anything. The fin is almost completely upright but I can't help the feeling that it might be broken somehow. He is doing his best to swim and stay upright but I think he is getting tired. He will swim then ride the current and then swim some more. I don't know if he's going to make it but I'd like to try. Two out of six total Silvertips remain. I've had a hard time with these guys. The only thing I have at the moment to treat him with is Bio Coat. I put that in the water of the smaller tank before transferring him. Is there anything I can do? Some tank history: 60 gallon - 1 Betta, 1 Pleco (brown with spots), 2 Parrots, 2 Black Stripped Silver Dollars, 3 Tiger Barbs, 4 Barbs (Orange), 7 (Forgive me I don't know the name of these guys) clear (as in see through) with neon edging (each one has a different color: pink, green, orange, yellow, blue, purple, and black)...whew, if you know their name that would be great. For now I just call them Mr. [then their color], and 2 Silvertip Sharks. I originally had 2 spotted puffers (yellowish/green, black spots with a white underbelly) but they were very aggressive towards my Silvertips (that's how I lost the first one). <<These "sharks" are actually brackish to marine catfishes... the puffers are brackish to marine as well... RMF>> Now they have their own 10 gallon. (2nd) 10 gallon - 1 Pleco (same as above only much darker), 1 Black Skirt, 1 Scissor Tail, 3 Neon Tetras, 4 Goldfish, and a mysterious snail that appeared out of no where. This is the tank I put the injured Silvertip in. I apologize for the lengthiness of this email. I did search for a possible answer ahead of time...came close but no hits. I am a new fish mommy and love every minute of it. I even managed to nurse one of the Silvertip Sharks back to health after it had gotten picked on by the puffers only to have it die from high Nitrate stress. Very sad!! I don't want to loose another one if I can help it. I truly appreciate you taking the time to read this...trust I have tons more questions but first my wounded fish. Thanks, ~Nad  <<Hello. What do your nitrates measure in both tanks? Both your tanks seem overstocked to me. Also, neon tetras and goldfish absolutely do NOT belong in the same tank. Way different lifestyles, temp requirements, feeding, pH, etc, there. When any species of fish is kept in the wrong environment, it leads to stress, and eventually, disease. You should try to decide who to keep and who to part with. If you remove the goldfish and return them to your LFS, it would be easier to keep the 10g as a hospital tank where you can treat the shark. You could move the Neons etc into the 60g temporarily until the shark is cured. A dose of Melafix or some salt should help him out if the infection is mild. If not, he may need something stronger, like an antibiotic, I can't tell without seeing him. You will need to use good judgment to decide that. Also, please do sufficient water changes in order to keep your nitrates low and your fish healthy! Use your test kits! :) -Gwen>> 

FW minnow shark/actually brackish water catfish (env.) disease Hello- I need a little help here. We have a 75 gallon freshwater tank. We have had what I think is an ongoing problem of some sort of disease. I have already had 2 Iridescent Sharks die. They begin to stop eating get really skinny and then just swimming all weird. Top of the tank bottom and middle. I'm a little confused I just don't see why its only the Iridescent Sharks, no one else seems to be showing any signs of disease. The first 2 died within a few days of each other,  now it has been about 3 weeks since we have had any problem and now we have it starting all over again. The tank includes 2 Bala sharks, 1 gold shark, 1 silver shark, 1 cigar shark, 2 glass cats, 1 ghost knife, 1 coolie loach, and 2 iridescent. We are running a Aqua Clear 500 and a Aqua tech 20-40. plus 2 Aqua clear 4000 power heads, for under gravel filtration. The tank has been running since June 25th of this year. When we set up the tank we started it with A miracle and a 700 gph pump (little giant). In about September we noticed a crack in the sump and immediately replaced it with the filtration that is on it now. About 3 weeks the filter crashed we first noticed the first iridescent swimming disoriented, and then he stopped eating, then died, The 2nd one followed shortly there after. We suspect the tank recycled causing stress to induce these deaths. It has now been about a month and we seem to be having the same problem again with another iridescent only this time there seems to be damage and some sort of spot on the top fin. If there is anything you can do to help or maybe give us an idea of what this might be please contact me by e-mail. < First of all we need to evaluate the overall health of the tank. For that you need to get some testing done. Measure the ammonia and nitrites. They should be zero all the time. Any readings mean that the nitrogenous wastes are not being completely being broken down by the bacteria and you will need to address that. Secondly is get a reading on the total nitrates . They should be less than 25 ppm but some fish may not be able to handle even that high of a reading and you iridescent sharks may fall into that category. They may not die out right but instead succumb to diseases for which they never recover from. The nitrates can be reduced by servicing the filter regularly and by doing weekly water changes. The amount of water is determined by the fish and how they are being kept. For general purposes we usually recommend about 25% per week.-Chuck> <<Is an Ariid catfish... not freshwater... RMF>> Jamie

Sick Columbian Catfish   3/24/06 Dear WWM crew, <Hi, Pufferpunk here> Thanks so much for your wonderful website. I have learned a lot from it. <Great to hear!> I was wondering if you can help me with the following: I have 2 Colombian cat sharks each about 10.5 inches long in a 55 gal. tank. <Since they can grow as large as 18", I'd suggest a 90+g for them.> Other fish in the tank include 3 Monos and 2 Plecos. <Monos grow to about a foot & will require another 120 gallons.  Plecos have no place in brackish water at all.> I have been having trouble keeping the level of nitrates down and 3 of our scats died. <Scats too?  You don't mention the size of your fish but scats grow as large as a dinner plate.  All of the species you mention (except the Plecos) will require marine conditions as they mature.> I had the tank in the basement and decided to bring it up to the living room to better monitor the tank. When I changed its location I made a 50 percent water change to lower the level of nitrates. <50% water changes should be done on a weekly basis.> However, since we moved the tank one of the cat sharks has been sick. First I thought it was Ich because I saw some little white dots. Now I am not so sure. <That does sound like Ich.> Its skin looks almost like it has a thin discolored membrane over it. Its color is dull compared to the healthy cat shark; its body color has changed from gray-silver to gray-purple and its fin is always down. This morning I also noticed that the fin has a white spot and it looks raw and wrinkly. It almost looks like a fungus. He stays at the bottom very still and his eyes are clear. He seems to be breathing quickly. He has been in this condition for about 4 days. I have treated the tank with Ich medicine, I changed some of the water last night (the nitrates are still high). <You should never medicate your entire display tank.  Sick fish should be medicated in a quarantine tank; so that all the fish aren't subjected to the meds, the disease isn't spread further, the fish isn't stressed by it's tank mates (because of it's weakened condition) & you don't do harm to your biological filtration with the meds.  That way you can also do large water changes on a smaller tank.> Also, I should say that one of the Monos had a sore in its mouth that I was treating with penicillin (4 days). Now the treatment has stopped and the sore is not as bad. So there was some penicillin in the water as well as Ich medicine. The temperature in the tank is 73F, salt water level is 1.002, the Ph. 7.2, alkalinity moderate (80), hardness (very hard), nitrates 160 (still unsafe).   <Are you using marine salt?  The water is way too cold--should be 78-82 degrees.  To treat Ich, you should raise the water temp to 86-87 degrees.  Your SG should probably be around 1.010.  Nitrates should be under 20.  Sounds like you haven't been doing enough regular water changes in there.  Are you rinsing the filter & cleaning the gravel regularly?  I should also mention that pH for BW fish should be around a steady 8, usually done by using aragonite or crushed coral as substrate.> I should also mention that about 3 months ago he jumped out of the tank and was on the floor for about 10-15 minutes before we found him. <Definitely stressful.  Stress=lowered immune system.> It took a while to recover and he was never as perky as before. He kept to the bottom of the tank most of the time but he was in good overall health. I really would appreciate your advice. I don't know what to do and it seems to me that time is running out for my "little" Colombian cat shark. Thanks a lot for your assistance. <Start out doing 20% water changes daily, until your nitrates are under 20.  Add Melafix for the shark's skin & the mono's mouth.  If there are still Ich spots, raise the temp.  Keep adding marine salt, getting the SG up .002/week until it is around 1.010-1.016.  Continue doing 50% weekly water changes.  Find homes for the Plecos.  Start saving for a much larger tank.  By then, they should be ready for SW.  ~PP>
Ill Colombian cat shark ... Bob's go  3/25/06 Dear Bob, Thanks so much for your wonderful website. I have learned a lot from it. I was wondering if you can help me with the following. I have 2 Colombian cat sharks about 10.5 inches long in a 55 gal. tank. <A bit crowded...> Other fish in the tank include 3 Monos and 2 Plecos. I have been having trouble keeping the level of nitrates down and 3 of our scats died. <A bummer... need much more room> I had the tank in the basement and decided to bring it up to the living room to better monitor the tank. When I changed its location I made a 50 percent water change to lower the level of nitrates. However, since we moved the tank one of the cat sharks has been sick. First I thought it was Ich because I saw some little white dots. Now I am not so sure. Its skin looks almost like it has a thin discolored membrane over it. Its color is dull compared to the healthy Catshark; its body color has changed from gray-silver to gray-purple and its fin is always down. <Bad signs> This morning I also noticed that the fin has a white spot and it looks raw and wrinkly. It almost looks like a fungus. He also stays at the bottom very still and his eyes are clear. He seems to be breathing quickly. He has been in this condition for about 4 days. <All easily just symptoms of nitrate poisoning> I have treated the tank with Ich medicine, I changed some of the water last night (the nitrates are still high). <How high is that?> Also, I should say that one of the Monos had a sore in its mouth that I was treating with penicillin (4 days). <Uhh... you need to fix these fishes environment... too crowded, polluted... they don't need medicines> Now the treatment has stopped and the sore is not as bad. So there was some penicillin in the water as well as Ich medicine. The temperature in the tank is 73F, salt water level is 1.002, <Needs to be higher for the Ariids at this size... remove the Plecos and raise>> the Ph. 7.2, alkalinity moderate (80), hardness (very hard), nitrates 160 (still unsafe). <Yikes... very toxic> I should also mention that about 3 months ago he jumped out of the tank and was on the floor for about 10-15 minutes before we found him. It took a while to recover and he was never as perky as before. He kept to the bottom of the tank most of the time but he was in good overall health. I really would appreciate your advice. I don't know what to do and it seems to me that time is running out for my "little" Colombian cat shark. Thanks a lot for your assistance. Anouk Patel-Campillo <Well, elevating the salt content (after removing the Loricariids) will forestall nitrate poisoning for a bit... but these Ariids and Monos need to be in larger quarters... at least twice this size... and to be exposed to no more than 20 ppm. nitrate maximum. End of line. Bob Fenner>
Re: ill Colombian cat shark   3/28/06   Dear PP, Thanks so much for your response. Since I wrote you last, we put the sick Colombian cat shark in a hospital tank took out the carbon and administered Aquari-sol for velvet disease (it supposedly also works to cure Ich). <Is it safe for scaleless fish?> The cat shark seemed to get better almost immediately (that was Friday). He was very active and started eating, he stopped flicking against rocks and was breathing normally. However, his fin was still disintegrating. I bought the Melafix you suggested and have given him one dose as of now. What worries me is that the powdery white dots he has on his skin seem to be proliferating and his side is showing some peeling. <The parasite could have damaged his skin or the meds could be doing the same thing.  Keep dosing with Melafix daily.> The hospital tank specifications are: temperature 78 degrees and raising slowly; <Get that up way higher--around 86.> pH between 7.2 and 7.8; <Why such a fluctuation of pH?  It should stay steady--around 8 for BW fish.  Fluctuation of pH is very stressful for fish.  In your main tank it's best to use crushed coral or aragonite substrate, to keep the pH around a steady 8.> alkalinity: 120; hardness: very hard (although I have been making 20% water changes with spring water); nitrates are up from 40 (before  put the cat shark in) to somewhere between 60 and 80. <Keep doing 20% (or more) daily water changes till the nitrates are <20.> I don't know why this is happening. The only thing I can think about is the food that I give him or the few feeder fish I had in there for him to eat. In any case I took out the feeder fish. <Great to hear--they are poop machines & not good food for your fish.  Do not overfeed your fish--only enough food to be completely eaten in 5 minutes.> I am hoping that with the daily changes of 20% and the absence of the feeder fish will help in getting the nitrates down again. <Definitely should help.> The SG is about 1.004. I assume I have to make small but steady increases until the tank reaches 1.010. Is that right? (We are using Oceanic Natural Marine Sea Salt Mix). <Correct.  Actually, at their size, you could aim even higher.> In the main display tank we moved the 2 Plecos to a fresh water tank and it now has one cat shark (10.5 inches long) a mono (about 4 inches nose to tail) and 2 smaller Monos (1.5 inches nose to tail) and a few feeder fish. <Either move the feeders in w/the Plecos (if that's all that are in there), or find other homes for them.  They do not belong with your BW fish.> We took out the ammonia remover from the filter and have been doing 20% water changes every day. The tank specifications are as follows: temperature: 78-80 (lowers to 76 when we do the changes); <Try to match the temp better--shouldn't be more than 1 degree either way, form the tank water.> PH between 7.2 and 7.8; <Again I repeat: It should stay steady--around 8 for BW fish.  Fluctuation of pH is very stressful for fish.  In your main tank it's best to use crushed coral or aragonite substrate, to keep the pH around a steady 8.> Alkalinity has decreased to 40; hardness (very) -although I use spring water-; Nitrates down from 160 to about 80!; SG levels: 1.004. Although overall the conditions in the tank seem to be improving, I noticed that although the big Mono's mouth seems to be getting better he is showing some powdery white dots on his eye (same as the sick shark) and a bit on his tail. I am very concerned that I may have not taken out the ill shark out of the display tank on time to spare the others. I am also worried about having to put the Mono with the ill shark in the hospital tank! Especially because the shark seems to be in such poor shape. What should I do?? I understand I can't medicate the display tank but I am not sure putting the Mono in the hospital tank is such a good idea given the more extreme condition of the shark. <Treat the tank w/large (50-80%) water changes (cleaning the substrate), salt & heat.> And, yes we are starting to save for a larger tank...do you think the fish can wait a year or so before being transferred into a larger tank? <Really hard to tell.  I think the sharks would definitely need a larger tank now.  The Monos are schooling fish (5-6) & will require at least a 300g tank for a school of 1' fish.  Rarely are these beauties housed correctly. =o{ > Also, we have been doing regular water changes but we recently moved to this area and we have had lots of problems with the quality of the water since. <What's wrong with your water exactly?  There is no way to get out of weekly water changes--best thing you can do for your fish!> Also,  I think we may be over feeding our fish. On a given day we give them a square of brine shrimp and bloodworms in the morning and bloodworms and tablets at night. Is that too much? If so, can you tell me how much I should be feeding them? <Bloodworms are fine but brine shrimp are not very nutritious at all (mostly water).  Be sure to rinse all foods in a brine shrimp net.  All the juices in those cubes are definitely adding to your nitrates.  Try freeze-dried plankton/krill & flakes too.  ~PP>

Columbian Shark--Died... =o{  3/29/06 Dear PP, I am sad to say that our cat shark died yesterday. <I thought it might have been tough to save him...> I am afraid I did not react quickly enough to save him. I had him for 3 years and got him when he was less than 2 inches long. <So sorry for your loss.> I think the parasites damaged his internal organs and in trying to save him I probably over medicated the poor guy. <It's difficult to medicate scale less fish.> The good news is that the Mono does not have the white dots in his eyes anymore. I think the water changes are helping. <Of course!  As the great Anthony Calfo says, "The solution to pollution, is dilution!"> The nitrates are down to 60 and the pH is stabilizing. The problem with the water here seems to be that it is high in heavy metals (that is why it is so hard, I guess) and we were concerned about this. Since we moved to this area we have lost a lot of fish including a great looking moray eel that we had for a year and a half.  The fish stores here are always having to quarantine their fish. When we figured out that something may be wrong with the water we started using spring water, which is low in heavy metals but also low in pH. Most likely the fluctuation in pH is due to the spring water we are using. Now I am mixing both tap and spring water. I assume that the fish can deal with the heavy metals? <Not necessarily.  Why not start using RO water?  You can buy your own system for pretty cheap on EBay.  Then start getting your SG up, so the salt can replace what the RO has removed, for something livable.  Also, use crushed coral or aragonite as substrate, to keep the pH around a steady 8 for BW fish.> We administered some water conditioner which supposedly takes care of this problem. <Hmmm, what's that?  I can't imagine anything other than a pH buffer, which will only work temporarily & cause large fluctuations of your pH.  VERY stressful for the fish to constantly try to adjust to the fluctuations!> One last question: with every water change we have been replacing salt in the display tank as indicated on the instructions and adding a bit more to raise the SG level. However, when we measure it with the hydrometer it always reads the same, 1.004. Why is this? <It really takes a lot of salt to raise the SG.  Around a cup of salt/5g to raise the SG .005 (rough estimate).  Only raise your SG .002/weekly 50% water change (or daily, in your case, till your nitrates are under 20), so you don't harm the beneficial bacteria in your tank.> Anyway, thanks again to you and Bob for your help. This experience has been quite educational. <There are great articles on water chemistry here: http://www.thepufferforum.com/articles/libraryTOC.html  Good luck with your remaining fish & that huge tank in your future!  ~PP> Best regards, AP

Death of Columbian Shark  1/26/-6 Hi- <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I had a quick question about my recently deceased Columbian Silvertip  Shark... I have had him for the past 5 months in a 23 gallon tank, and he's been growing and healthy and very active--he was around 6-7". <For a fish that large, which loves a lot of space for it's constant swimming, that tank sounds a bit too small.  As these fish can grow up to 18", eventually a 90g tank or larger is recommended for them.  They are also schooling fish.> About a week ago, I noticed he seemed more "antsy" than   normal--usually he swam always in the corner near the filter-head   against the current, but recently he started swimming around the   entire tank in a slightly restless state, and I noticed that he had stopped eating.  I put in some feeder guppies for him (a usual treat) to see if that perked his appetite, but no luck.  I did a 1/4 water change last week, water parameters all good, water has always been slightly brackish, and heater has been constant at 78 degrees. <How often do you do water changes?  What does "slightly brackish" mean?  Are you using marine salt & testing with a hydrometer?  It would be helpful to know the water parameters of your tank, but as the fish is gone, they would have changed by now.  Always a good thing to know though: ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, pH & SG.> Last night, I came home to see him gasping on his back in the rear of the tank. Physically, he looked fine, although I can't tell if there was something slightly off with his skin/color on either side of his top fin (I couldn't tell if it was just markings, or something else--very subtle, and nothing I could identify as a bacteria/fungus). I took him out and put him in a hospital tank with some tetracycline, but by morning he was gone. <It's not a good idea to medicate for an undiagnosed problem--could do more harm than good.  1st thing I would have done was test the water & do a large (50%) water change, or if it's been a while, 2 25% water changes in 2 days.> I really loved keeping him, but now I'm afraid to get another one,   since I feel clueless as to why his health declined so fast.  Any   clue to what could triggered his death? There's a golden algae eater in the tank that would bully him sometime, but nothing too   vicious...  All my other fish seem fat and healthy (knock on wood): Pleco, Cory cats, danios, male Betta, tetras and golden rams.   <None of which like any part of brackish water.  With a 6-7" fish added to that mix--way overcrowded!  Start doing more regular, larger weekly water changes & testing your water.  ~PP> Thank  you for your time- I really appreciate your advice! *Daisy

Sick Hexanematichthys seemanni  9/20/05 Hi Bob, <Erik> One of my 3 Hexanematichthys Seemanni is very sick. He has lost most of his color and keeps hiding behind a rock and just sitting there. <Not good> As a precaution I have moved him to a 10 gallon hospital tank and medicated with Melafix, <Don't do this...> although I have no idea what could be wrong. Fins appear to be in good shape and there are no signs of fungus. Tank water is fine, 0 Ammonia and Nitrite, about 20-40 ppm nitrate, 82 degrees and PH is about 8, specific gravity is about 1.008. I have a Needlenose gar, a milk spotted puffer, 3 sharks and 5 mollies in a 55 gallon. (I know I need another big tank eventually, everyone is still a juvenile except the mollies and they are getting along fine.) I keep 3 platies and my feeder minnows <Here we go> in the hospital tank to keep it cycled. Any idea what it could be? His fins are clear now and his eyes are clouded over. Thanks, Erik in Oceanside <Is very likely something to do with the "feeders"... or something else this fish ate. I would remove it back to the main tank. The Melafix is more toxic than helpful. Bob Fenner>
Re: Sick Hexanematichthys seemanni
Bob, <Erik> I had already done that, <Added the "Fix", yes... I understand/stood that> I wasn't planning on leaving him there for long. <Ah, good... too small a volume... hard to keep water quality optimized, stable for this size, type organism> If MelaFix is so toxic, why is it on the market and being recommended as a general medication by Petco for fish? <... "folks will buy it"... you can see my, other WWM Crews input re this AP product by searching...> The guy there told me MelaFix was a good general cure for most fish ailments. I thought it was worth a try. <My friend... why don't doctors prescribe "leaf extracts" for human ailments? I do enjoy hot tea (having some right now) though...> The gar eats nothing but live minnows. I only put them in the main tank one at a time to be sure they get eaten, they don't handle the salt well at all, a few hours and they go kaput. If he doesn't eat it right away it comes back out as he is obviously not hungry. <Mmm, I'd try training this fish onto other dead meaty foods, strips> I'm sure the shark didn't eat any minnows. Other than that they get live bloodworms, tropical flake and frozen krill. I also put emerald green in for the mollies once in a while. <I see> Anyway, he seems to be doing much better, some of his color has come back and he's back to his normal activity level. <Ah, very good news> Why the "Here we go" comment? Do you have some objection to feeder fish or is it the way they are being kept? <Do have objections... again... please don't write, use the indices, search tool... Bob Fenner> Thanks as always, Erik
Re: Sick Hexanematichthys seemanni... actually, "feeder" effects... causal relations, first order operations 9/26/05
Bob, <Erik> The shark is fine, and in a new home now. <Ah, good> My feeder fish problem is solved, so to speak. The gar died last night, as did my milk spotted puffer. I bought a new decoration for my tank at Petco, the Miracle Beam city scape of Los Angeles. It was on clearance for five bucks. I was already thinking about dropping $40 on the miracle beam light system, so I thought this to be a cheap alternative, even if I didn't use the city scape it's self, just the light. My wife fell in love with it and made me put it in the tank last night. I woke up to an otherwise healthy dead gar and puffer. My nitrites were through the roof but ammonia was still zero. This is in a completely cycled tank with previously zero nitrites and ammonia with anywhere between 20 and 50 ppm nitrates. I had just tested everything yesterday. I was doing 25% weekly water changes and PH was about 8.0. Here's and odd side note, when I tested the ammonia after the death of my two favorite fish, the water in the test tube didn't change color but did get extremely cloudy as soon as I added the solution, any ideas? <... some sort of chemical/test gear interaction... perhaps from the water change... I strongly encourage folks to pre-treat, store new water for a week...> The only thing I can think of is that the ornament has a magnet in it to hold the light on the outside of the tank (you back the piece up to the tank wall and the light is actually on the outside of the tank). I think a piece of the PVC that houses the magnet was broken, allowing exposure of the metal to the brackish water in my system. So far as I know, metal corrodes in salt and water, so it must have leeched something toxic into the system to kill two otherwise hardy and healthy fish and destroy my nitrifying bacteria. <Yikes... not good if so... there are ferrous/iron test kits... The nitrogenous readings could be "just" from the dead/dying fishes though...> Have you ever heard of such a thing? Am I way of base and the problem lies elsewhere? <Impossible to tell from here. Again, the "feeder" issue... these pond-raised fishes et al. are reared, shipped, kept in deplorable conditions... invariably have high, diverse parasite loads (I used them for years as such sources for demonstrations of fish pathology)... this is very likely the root cause of troubles here...> In any event, I have taken the three remaining brackish fish, my silver tip sharks, to the LFS and have decided to go with a straight freshwater semi-aggressive tank. I completely emptied my tank and started from scratch. I bought some bio-Spira and some new live stock after completely cleaning everything associated with the tank as thoroughly as I could. If such and ornament is not meant for salt water, then shouldn't they have to post some warning on it? If it's toxic to fish, shouldn't it be off the market? <I have not a clue here> Erik in Oceanside <Bob Fenner, in Mira Mesa, but out to HI tomorrow> Arius seemanni Hello! I have just recently found your site and your faq responses are amazing so I thought of you first when I started having problems with my new 55 gal. tank.  <thanks kindly> Right now the tank is cycling, it's about 20 days in and the only fish in the tank are one Black Molly and Two Arius seemanni.  <an interesting mix... not quite compatible either... these "sharks" grow to nearly 24"!> The sharks were not originally intended to be in the tank during cycling but I have had them for a year and a half and they have outgrown their tank horribly and the larger one was actually injuring himself when he got excited so I thought moving him up right away was necessary....I think I may have moved too soon. I have been religiously testing the ammonia levels at the LFS and the woman regularly tells me that the ammonia spike is coming and although my levels aren't toxic just yet I should watch the fish carefully and change 20 - 25% water at least once a week.  <agreed> Ok so the problem. I have followed her directions and in all actuality ammonia doesn't seem to be the problem. But my largest shark is looking bad... his color has drained to a light silvery splotchy color and over the last few days he has slowed down a lot and is having trouble swimming. He sits on the bottom is awkward positions. His breathing is a bit labored but certainly not the worst I've seen. He also looks to be developing a case of hemorrhagic septicemia, but I suspect that it is not his primary problem but rather something that developed from his weakness. Neither of the other two fish are showing any kind of signs of illness. I can only think of one thing that has changed since I set up the tank.  <actually... symptoms like this are common in stunted fish and fishes kept in tanks that are too small... it may be the case here. There is no such thing as a "healthy" stunting of a fish in accordance with their tank size.>  I have been adding salt slowly to bring up the SG, which is now at around 1.011 and this subsequently killed off all of the white cloud I had in the tank  <very good!> and my only choice for feeder fish were guppies :( The larger Arius is really the only one that actively takes live food and it's a possibility that he was the only one who ate them could that be why he is the only one who is affected?  <possibly> I'm going to treat for the septicemia right away, but I don't want to lose this fish, his friend will be lonely so if you have any ideas on what I have done wrong I would appreciate it :( Sincerely, Rachael PS Sorry this is so long! <no worries... and aside from tank size you seem to be well informed and certainly empathetic. Lets treat the fish in a QT tank if possible with a Furan based medication. Best regards, Anthony>

Columbian Shark Acting Weird 1/13/04 <Hi, Pufferpunk here> Hello, I am kind of new to this fish stuff but it is fun,   <Welcome to my passion--fishkeeping!  I hope it will become your passion too.> I have a 55 gallon tank and 2 small Columbian sharks, and a couple other small fish in the tank with them, I.e. a red tail shark and a couple of small catfish. <I can already see a problem here.  Columbian Sharks are brackish water fish, that prefer saltwater as adults.>   But my worries are about  one of the Columbian sharks, its belly is huge and it seems to swim in circles and not ever able to gain any sort of equilibrium and maintain normal patterns like the other Columbian,  All other fish are fine and water is of good quality.  It is like the shark is doing back flips and other acrobatic maneuvers...I am just worried and would hate to see it die or suffer.   <Is it possible to quarantine this fish?  I think it might have internal parasites.  It is a common thing with wild-caught fish.  If it's eating, try treating it with Discomed, by Aquatronics.   If you can't separate it, all the fish will have to eat the medicated food.> Thank you so much and I Love your site I have learned a lot.  Dennis Barnard <You're welcome & keep learning--Pufferpunk>

Arius seemanni (shark catfish) with cloudy eye (10/14/03) Hello WetWeb crew!   <Hi! Ananda here today...> I just had a quick question, I have a pretty good sized Arius seemanni, he's maybe 6 or 7 inches and because the tank is a reef tank and he's a little rough, he gets small scratches and scrapes from time to time, he heals up very quickly, but it looks like he may have scratched his eye recently.   <Ack. I'm glad he's in a tank with some salt, but scrapes and injuries are going to be par for the course in a reef tank... these guys are shoalers and need some open space to swim around in.> A day or two ago it started out as a very cloudy, but splotchy looking deal, but now it's uniform throughout his eye but slightly more clear...it is possible he has a disease resulting from the scratch (I ask just because it's changed form slightly) or is it more likely that this is just his healing process?   <Could be a developing infection. You might consider setting up the quarantine tank for him for a bit and medicating with an antibiotic... on the other hand, since it's likely to be difficult to catch him, you might just observe him for a few days and see what progresses. Do keep the water quality pristine, and wear aquatic gloves when you put your hands in the tank to prevent any of the bacteria on your hands/under your fingernails from getting into the tank. Also feed him high-quality foods, perhaps an antibiotic food if you have one that he will eat.> His behavior is completely normal otherwise.   <That's always a good sign.> I appreciate your expertise!  Thank you SO much for your time! Rachael Loose <You're welcome. --Ananda>

Sick Columbian Shark (09/14/03) <Hi! Ananda here today...> I just started a new tank, also my first tank.  The pet store that I bought everything from was no help in setting up the tank.   <Not at all unusual, unfortunately.> After asking many questions all they said was to add salt to the tank.  Well after about two weeks I thought things were settling down after a phosphorus bloom, and learning more about keeping a brackish tank then I ever thought I'd need to know.   <Okay... if you haven't read it yet, hunt up Neale Monks' "Brackish FAQ". A Google search should show several hits; some sites have it in html, others have it in PDF.> The ph is steady at about 7.1-7.2. <Hmmm. Kinda low for brackish, but steady is good. What's your source pH, and what's your s.g.?> The nitrite level is high (5), which I've been told is normal until the nitrogen cycle completes and the biological filtration develops.   <Ack! But too high for your fish. Do a water change ASAP!> Also the natural sea salt was added according to the directions.  However after realizing I might need a specific gravity tester, the tank shows almost freshwater results.  I have been adding salt slowing over the past day to try and bring it up.  I've heard that Columbian sharks like increasing salinity as they get older, so I'm starting fairly low with a 1.006ish specific gravity. (increasing to 1.015 gradually over a year)   <Sounds good. Just use slightly brackish water for top off, and/or use slightly-more-brackish water for water changes.> I can't understand the disappearance of the salt that was mixed in at the start.  Could the filter remove it? <Unlikely. How much salt did you add, or how high a specific gravity did you shoot for at first? Also, what kind of hydrometer are you using? If it's a floating thermometer-hydrometer, it will give you readings that are not accurate for your tank temp -- they're calibrated for 60 degrees F, and you need a chart to convert its reading to get the reading it should be for your tank temp. That's why I'm not fond of those. Well, that, and the fact that they're fragile -- I've broken two of them! For brackish, you either want a SeaTest hydrometer (made by Aquarium Systems) or a refractometer.> Unfortunately the fish were in the tank through my inexperience and changes to ph, salinity, and chlorine removal. They have all held up very well until about three days ago.  The Columbian Shark sits in his favorite corner, but no longer swims, just lays on the bottom.  His dorsal fin is also tucked back and no longer up like usual.  He perks up just fine when it's feeding time, and seems to eat normally.  But then goes back to laying.  There are no noticeable marks, scars or growths.  I'm hoping it's just the changes and that he'll be back to normal soon, but better to be sure.  Thank you very much for your time.  -Dan <It's the nitrite. You could take him out and put him in a quarantine tank, doing daily water changes to keep the ammonia down. Or you could leave him in the main tank and do water changes to keep the nitrites down -- though that would have the unfortunate side effect of lengthening your cycle. I'd go with the quarantine tank -- it doesn't need to be anything fancy; a sturdy plastic container will work. Do check the WWM site for info on quarantining and tank cycling... there are also a few pages about the Columbian sharks. I am very glad you have him in brackish water. And do check out the brackish forum on the WWM chat forums: http://wetwebfotos.com/talk/... --Ananda>

Arius seemanni Venom (3/7/04) Hi, <Steve Allen today>   I have a aggressive Arius seemanni and I have read that they have anticoagulant venom. My question is, what would happen if I where to be bitten <the venom is actually through the dorsal spines>, would this pose a risk to my health (could I get sick/die), and what should I do if she does bite me? <I found little about this on the internet, suggesting there have been few cases of actual harm. You might w ant to do more research on the web or through a university library. Anticoagulant venoms aren't really likely to kill you, but there could be a lot of localized bleeding. If you got a lot of venom in you, it could possibly cause serious problems. In your position, I'd keep my bare skin out of the tank. Get some puncture-resistant aquarium gloves and keep an eye on him. If something happens, cal your doctor immediately. > Thank You-Joey <Hope this helps.>

Distressed Arius graeffei Hi guys!! <Hi there> I recently added 2 Arius graeffei to my 60"x18"x20" tropical tank society of approx. 25 fish and 14 yabbies. <Yikes... pretty crowded> Unfortunately, these fish won't relax.  There was a third fish at the store when I purchased the 2, and was wondering whether the neurotic behaviour of the purchased 2 was due to potential emotional stress due to separation from their friend/family member. <Not IME... this is just one of the more diurnally active, make that ACTIVE catfishes> The pair haven't settled down after a couple of weeks, and I was wondering whether this was due to the pair being of the same sex, or because of the absent 3rd Arius graeffei. I have constructed roomy rock caves for habitat in the aquarium for their lair, but still no peace.  Their behaviour distresses the ecosystem, and I can't put up with it for much longer!! <Maybe time to trade them in> Please help me with some advice and experienced stories before these two Arius graeffei learn to swim in salt water.. <They may do so... naturally> Kind regards, Aaron and Matty T <Bob Fenner>

Columbian Sharks and Java Ferns Sorry to bother you guys again, but I have two questions I couldn't find on your site. I have two Columbian sharks. They are both still pretty young (about 5 inches). <You'll need about 100 gallons of brackish water to keep these large fish into adulthood.> I've noticed recently that their fins are a little torn, the smaller shark more than the bigger one. I doesn't look at all like it could be fin and tail rot, besides they are both really healthy. They are inseparable and I've never seen them be violent to one another, I was wondering if they could be doing this to themselves since they are the most aggressive fish in the tank. <Possible> (33 gal with the two sharks, Pleco, African leaf fish, leopard leaf fish and fire eel) <The eel may be causing a ruckus at night> Don't worry we are eventually moving the sharks to a brackish tank. <Salt will help heal as well as start adjusting them to their adult requirements. Host of reasons for tattered fins. Aggression, very high or low pH, ammonia, very high nitrates etc..> Second question, we have sand as our substrate and have live plants I think they are java ferns. The pet store told us that if the plants are submerged directly into the sand eventually they will start emitting toxic gases that are undetectable and will kill our fish. Because of this I put the plants in little plastic cups filled with gravel and submerged those in the sand. <Will not help> I was just wondering if this was necessary. I couldn't find any info on the net. <Java Fern grows from a "stem" that grows horizontal to the substrate. The fronds then grow up along this stem. If it is buried in *any* substrate it will die and decay. This will result in more ammonia entering your cycle. I know of no other "gas" that decaying Java emits. I planted mine on driftwood. Just cut a sliver, leaving it attached to the wood. Then use this sliver to clip the base of the fern to the wood. That will hold it in place until the roots grab the wood. Don>

Columbian Sharks (Arius seemanni)  9/26/04 Hi There, <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I was just on your website and I found a lot of interesting information about the Columbian Shark.  I do have a question that I did not find an answer to on your site.  I just bought two small (2 inches or so) sharks and I believe they are Columbian sharks.  They are very silver almost metallic grey and very sleek. They have very long whiskers and look identical to a real shark.   <Have you read this? http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ariidcats.htm) Now, my question is: why would they be swimming upside down?  They are not just floating there in they water but actually swimming quickly at the top, upside down!? <Are they upside-down all the time?  Are they gasping for air?  Or do they straighten out after a while & swim normally?> Sorry, I actually have one more question in regards to these sharks... Is it okay to have them in a tank with goldfish?  I know it sounds funny but They are in my 40 gallon with a large (8 inches at least) pond goldfish as well as a 3 inch feeder goldfish and two 2-3 inch fantail goldfish.  They seem to be doing well with them so far but how long will this be okay? <Absolutely not!  GFs are Very messy, high waste-producing cold water fish.  Your "sharks" are actually tropical, brackish water fish that prefer saltwater as adults.  They also grow 14-18" & require a huge tank. You never mix tropical fish with GF.> If you could please answer this I would greatly appreciate it. <I suggest either setting up a separate BW tank for them (expecting to need a very large tank in the future for these fish), or return them.  ~PP> Thank You !!  Ashley

Columbian sharks Dear crew I would be very grateful for some advice. I have two Columbian   sharks which are about 5" long, just recently one has started just lying on the   gravel a lot it also has a very large belly. Should I be concerned.    The water is fine & although it is a fresh water tank I  add one teaspoon of salt for every two gallons of water in a 90 gallon  tank.                     happy new year                             James <James, I would add some Epsom Salt (magnesium sulfate), at one teaspoon per five gallons here, in the hope it will alleviate the swelling. I also encourage you to get/use a hydrometer... to measure the specific gravity of the water... I do hope your other livestock can tolerate brackish water... and that you have plans to graduate these catfish to full marine in future. Bob Fenner>

Columbian Shark Question I have 3 Columbian sharks, about 4 inches in a 29 gal. tank.  I've done a lot of reading on forums such as this about them and thought I was doing things well.  I just recently did a water change and changes some of the tank decor to make more room for them.  Now I just noticed one of them has a white, growth looking spot on his tail fin. <Possibly fin and tail rot?>  They usually lay on the ground from time to time but now they do it A LOT.  I'm guessing that that is just because they are getting used to their new surroundings.  But I have no idea about the white, growth looking thing.  Any help would be great.  <I suggest you check out the saltwater FAQs. My best guess is that it might be Lymphocystis  see the picture here to see if maybe that's what it is? http://www.wetwebmedia.com/viraldislymph.htm. If it is there are FAQs to tell you how to handle it or write back and we will work you out a game plan Adam. Good luck, MacL> Thanks Adam

Arius seemanni please help! Hi!  My name is Rebekah and my husband's name is Chris. <My name is Paul Maud'dib... actually, call me Bob> We got a  10 gallon fish tank over a year ago and our first two fish were Arius seemanni,  or shark catfish.  No one told us they would get so big, we were new at  this!  We just got them a 29 gallon tank.  They were both doing very  well and very active.  They seem like best friends and always swim with  each other.  Tonight we were horrified to look in our tank and see one of  our shark fish dying! <!> We had to leave and when we came back he was dead, absolute stiff as a   board.  The other shark left seems quite sad.  Our question is what  happened?  He was so healthy and active!  We don't want to lose our  other shark.  Let me tell you the symptoms and I hope you can help! My husband heard a loud commotion in our tank and saw the catfish really   freaking out.  He was shooting around the tank at lightening speeds!   Then he started to convulse and swim upside down and his mouth kept opening and  closing and he almost seemed to be gasping for air.  It didn't take him  long to die. He turned really white and the tips of his black fins turned  almost a clear white.  Like I said, he was very stiff when we removed  him.   <Frightening> Where did we go wrong?  We were so sad to loose one of our first fish  we ever bought!  And does the other catfish need a friend to replace the  dead one?   Thank you so much for any help! Bekah and Chris <Some sort of catastrophic injury happened to just the one specimen... Likely it either crashed into part of the decor or rammed up into the hood/top... this does happen... more so in smaller systems than larger. Bob Fenner>

Iridescent Shark 7/19/05 Heya Bob. I have 2 iridescent sharks in my tank. I know it is a very bad choice of fish for a small aquarium but since they are already living there for so long, I cant bare to kill them. Besides no one wants such a huge fish. I realize they are super hardy fishes. They got Ich and killed whatever was in the tank but survived the ordeal. However their noses were badly injured and did not recover after 1 year. They are rubbing their noses against the glass tank as if to swim thru it. The skin on the nose is GONE and I can see the red flesh and whitish stuff (perhaps the bone?). The other shark has a red pus on it. Sort of like a pimple that is about to burst, very red and in a bag. What can I do to treat their condition? Very heart-aching. Thanks and I look forward for your advice. >>>Greetings! Jim here. You've neglected to tell me how large your fish are, and the size of your tank. Quite frankly I hate to read emails like this. Am I to understand then that you can't bear to kill them, but you have no problem keeping them in such cramped surroundings that they cannot remain healthy? You can help then along with antibiotics, but frankly this will not be enough. You need to find homes for your fish, and stock your tank with appropriately sized animals. Cheers Jim<<<

Iridescent Shark 7/20/05 > Heya Bob. > I have 2 iridescent sharks in my tank. I know it is a very bad choice of > fish for a small aquarium but since they are already living there for so > long, I cant bare to kill them. Besides no one wants such a huge fish. > I realize they are super hardy fishes. They got Ich and killed whatever > was in the tank but survived the ordeal. However their noses were badly > injured and did not recover after 1 year. They are rubbing their noses > against the glass tank as if to swim thru it. The skin on the nose is GONE > and I can see the red flesh and whitish stuff (perhaps the bone?). The > other shark has a red pus on it. Sort of like a pimple that is about to > burst, very red and in a bag. > What can I do to treat their condition? Very heart-aching. Thanks and I > look forward for your advice. >>>>Greetings! Jim here. > You've neglected to tell me how large your fish are, and the size of your > tank. Quite frankly I hate to read emails like this. Am I to understand > then that you can't bear to kill them, but you have no problem keeping > them in such cramped surroundings that they cannot remain healthy? You can > help then along with antibiotics, but frankly this will not be enough. You > need to find homes for your fish, and stock your tank with appropriately > sized animals. > Cheers > Jim<<< Hello Bob Sorry about the missing details. Thanks for the advice <Welcome... have you read our accumulated FAQs re this species: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ariidcatfaqs.htm and the linked files above? BobF>
Re: Iridescent Sharks 7/21/05
Hi Bob. Yes I did do a search using the search engine found in the web for iridescent, shark and nose. Read the articles with the combination but I did not find one that describe the condition or the suitable treatment. So I emailed you regarding this. Maybe the articles are dated too far back cos I did not go thru all the results from the search engine. I have also read the FAQ, FAQ2. <... so, these animals are in brackish to a marine setting... Bob Fenner>

Please read!!! Sick FW (actually more like saltwater) Catfishes... I'm sure you get a lot of email, and probably don't have a lot of time.  <Same amount as everyone my friend> I have a freshwater aquarium with two Arius Jordani (Jordan's Catfish) <Ah, yes... that minor prophet of democracy, first pres. of Stanford, none other than David Starr J. himself> they both started getting white splotches. I first treated the tank for fungus. It cleared up part way. I figured maybe it was a secondary infection and read up on Ich.  <Good so far...> I have treated them for Ich. One of my catfish has a white spike protruding from his side.  <Yikes... likely an intraneural bone... not good... and possible evidence of a very aggressive bacterial problem... internal> He is not as active as he normally is. I don't know if he will survive. I had an ammonia problem not to long ago but that has been fixed. This all started occurring soon after the ammonia reached a safe level. <Actually, as you know... before, with the ammonia problem... or what actually "caused" the ammonia problem...> I might not be able to save this catfish, but I am really concerned with finding a solution to this. It might get my other catfish too. I have heard great things about your knowledge of fish and I am at a total loss to explain it. The catfish has also lost one of his whiskers, he seems to have an infection around his upper lip also. Like I say I may not be able to save this catfish, but I need to fix the problem so it does not happen again. Any feed back would be greatly appreciated. And thank you for your time. Sincerely, Luke <Thank you for writing. Please do quickly read over the section on "Hole in the Side Disease" under the "Pond Index" on my site: www.WetWebMedia.com and avail yourself of the proposed solutions there... I would make my own antibiotic laden food, keep water quality optimized and stable, slap on an ultraviolet sterilizer in the filter flow path if you have one (otherwise check with your marine aquarist friends to see if they have one "laying around"), add some salt (see the WWM site re) to the water, keep changing the water/gravel vacuuming regularly with pre-made, stored freshwater... Do think you have a gram negative bacterial hyperinfection here... and it can be stopped. Bob Fenner>
Please read!!!
Thank you for the prompt reply! :) It was highly informative. I sure hope it has been caught in time to be beaten back. Again I appreciate your response immensely! Thank you, -Luke <You're welcome my friend. Life to you. Bob Fenner>

Sick Arius seemanni Hi Bob We have 3 Arius seemanni in a 46 gal. hexagonal tank with 10 African cichlids, 3 tiger barbs, 3 golden barbs, 4 cherry barbs, and 2 common places. <wow... what a truly bizarre mix <G> of fishes from Africa, Asia and South America. Really, you have fishes needing three different water qualities here: African for hard, alkaline and mildly brackish... neutral Asia water quality preferences... and soft acidic south American demons (Pleco). It is difficult if at all possible to maintain all such fishes in good health in the long run under such compromised water quality> The water is brackish. ph 7.8, ammonia-norm, nitrate-norm temp -80. we have two fake plants and lots of brook rocks, and crushed coral on the bottom,  <all conducive to the African cichlids> a magnum 350 filter, and two 6" air stones.  <is the magnum the only biological filter?!?! If so... it is very poorly suited and undersized for the job. Really just a good mechanical and chemical filter instead. Do add much better biological filtration (like an Eheim with ceramic noodles and course foam or a wet/dry filter> The catfish have developed white spotty lumps all over their bodies and are not active as when we bought them a week ago they also have not eaten for about a day. Do you know what this is and if so what can we do about it? <hmmm.... likely a bacterial infection, but do review the archives on disease to see if a photo or description can help: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/mardisease.htm> Thank You, Jenessa <best regards, Anthony Calfo>

Iridescent sick? I am a newbie. I recently got a paradise fish, red flame dwarf, algae eater, 1 Bala and 1 ID shark.  <... this last fish is a brackish to marine catfish...> For the first while the ID shark was fine, but now I noticed he's been hiding more often in the castle, I was concerned cause he generally will come out and play with the Bala for a while at night and lately he hasn't.  So I fished him out of the castle and got a look at him and it appears he's changed colour a bit, I don't know if its the water, or what but his side looks a little yellowish where it should be silver and I cant be sure but I think the bottom of him has changed in colour too. <IS the water> I don't know if he's still eating, I tried to see if he would take food and it looked like he did and he was swimming around quite well when I fished him out and he even stayed out for a bit , but its his colour I'm concerned with.  Does he sound sick to you? The rest of the fish are fine. If he is sick, what can I do about it? <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ariidcats.htm  and the Related FAQs (linked, in blue, above)> He's only about 2 to 3 inches long and they are all in a 10 gallon tank right now. <...! Too small a system for the Bala, this catfish...> I have a mini filter, and I use clarify to keep the tank healthy, I also use a treatment which de-stresses the tank and cleans out the chlorine. <Good> I feed them flakes and blood worms. There's also a "bubble unit" to add extra air in the water. <A good addition> The tank looks clean , but I'm not sure of the levels. <Me neither... but these fishes are environmentally incompatible... the "shark" needs brackish water... and if it lives, full marine... and you need a bigger tank altogether> Please help the ID is one of my fave fish and I was really looking forward to growing him large. <Ahh, then study my young friend... read about your fishes on WWM, Fishbase.org Much to know. Bob Fenner>

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