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FAQs about the Diseases of Clownfishes: Mysterious, Anomalous Losses

 Related FAQs: Clownfish Disease 1, Diseases of Clownfishes 2, Diseases of Clownfishes 3, Clownfish Disease 4, Clownfish Disease 5, Clownfish Disease 6, Clownfish Disease 7, Clownfish Disease 8, Clownfish Disease 9, Clownfish Disease 10, Clownfish Disease 11, Clownfish Disease 12, Clownfish Disease 13, Clownfish Disease 14, Clownfish Disease 15, Clownfish Disease 16, Clownfish Disease 17, Clownfish Disease 18, Clownfish Disease 19, Clownfish Disease 20, Clownfish Disease 21, Clownfish Disease 22, Clownfish Disease 24, Clownfish Disease 25, Clownfish Disease 26, Clownfish Disease 27, & FAQs on Clownfish Disease By: Environmental Stress, Nutrition, Social/Behavioral/Territoriality, Trauma/Mechanical Injury, & Pathogens: Lymphocystis, Infectious Disease (Bacteria, Fungi...), Protozoans: Cryptocaryon/Ich, Amyloodinium/Velvet, Brooklynella (see article below), & Cure, Success Stories, & Clownfishes in General, Clownfish Identification, Clownfish Selection, Clownfish Compatibility, Clownfish Behavior, Clownfish Systems, Clownfish Feeding, Clownfishes and AnemonesBreeding Clowns

Related Articles: Clownfish Disease, BrooklynellosisClownfishes, Maroon Clowns, Marine Disease

See this specimen's upper jaw? A genetic deformity is evident.

Ocellaris Clownfish - sick      9/13/16
I have an Ocellaris Clownfish that has stopped eating and swims at the top of the tank, (about floating) like he is dying but has been this way for weeks. He is not eating that I can see. His mouth is slightly open, gills moving more, and his rear fin is dissolving. No open wounds or anything else I can see. His tank mate is another Ocellaris. They were tank bred and I got them about 10 years ago. They've been very hardy. Same 30gal tank for that time.
No recent livestock additions. They are fed flake and I picked up some frozen brine shrimp to try to get him to eat but no luck. He seemed to get excited but didn't eat. They have eaten frozen before. I had a Six line Wrasse that died a couple of weeks back. This fish did have a slightly open mouth for a long time but still ate and acted normal. Not
sure if there is a connection there. Could the Clownfish just be at end of lifespan or could it be infection?
<Can't tell w/ the data, pix provided>
I'm surprised it's still alive in its present state. It seems blind and unresponsive to hand movement up to the glass. Occasionally it had swam with its tank mate like it was getting better but less now...haven't seen that in days. Makes me wonder if a fish could have dementia and forget how to eat (based on its age).
I'm attaching a couple of pics. Any idea what this could be?
Thanks, Phil
<Mmm; even w/ cropping and spiffing, can't make out much in your blurry pix. I'd try a few things here: Supplementing the water and foods w/ vitamins, HUFAs, Iodide (see SeaChem's line for all); placing a unit of Chemipure in the filter flow path... lowering the spg a few thousandths...
Please do keep us informed as to progress.
Bob Fenner>

Re: Ocellaris Clownfish - sick      9/13/16
Thanks for your help!
<Certainly welcome. Bob Fenner>

sick/dying clowns -- 03/03/09 Hi Crew, <Tim> I have a bit of a problem/ situation that I'm hoping you can help me out with. <Me too> About a month ago I purchased a pair of wild caught clowns <Mmm, captive produced are far superior... and not enough room likely... what species?> from quite a reputable store for my 20 gallon tank (Approx. guess on the gallons as we use litres over here in Oz - 87 litres if that helps). All was good for the first 3 weeks until I noticed that the female clown had an abrasion on the last white stripe before her tail ended, which seemed to be bleeding, and the black part of her tail had gone a whitish colour. From what I could see the damage to her tail looked to be physical at this stage and presumed that she may have been hit by a fallen piece of live rock that I found laying in the sand bed. After consulting a staff member at my LFS, he suggested I give her fresh water baths to prevent infection/disease, <Returning the fish to the same system...> and to keep an eye on her to be sure her situation didn't change. About three days and a few baths later, she seemed to be fine... the whole time eating and acting like her usual self. Then about 2 days after this her tail around the area started to deteriorate and she lost about half of it over night. I bathed her a few more times over the next day and a bit before finding her dead. The whole time she was sick her partner was fighting fit and showed no signs of the sickness that his female friend had. When I found her dead she seemed to have white spots all over her body so I kept a close eye on the male making sure that he didn't contract anything from her. A week had passed and he looked just as healthy as ever so I bought him a new mate - a wild caught clown around twice his size. This was 6 days ago. I am still relatively new to the marine side of things although I have had fresh water tanks for quite a few years and have been reading up on your site as much as possible and have learnt quite alot of things from you and you wonderful team. I don't have the resources at the moment for a QT tank but, as suggested in many of you FAQ's, gave his new tank mate a fresh water bath before placing her/it in the tank with him. <Good> The next morning, much to my disappointment i found him hardly breathing and with white spots all over his body and his new tank mate with a few spots on her body. Unfortunately they both passed away :( <...> The reason(s) I am writing to you is 1. Could the problem with the first female clown have been a disease/parasite that she had before I got her and not from a possible landslide in the tank? <Of a certainty, yes> 2. Could this parasite have been living in the in-between her dying and her mate getting sick? <Could> & 3. If the answer to question 2 is yes... How can I eliminate the problem? <... a few possibilities... the most sure, bleach the existing system, in place... rinse, refill, rinse, refill... Add new seawater, have time go by... Other possible protocols include treating the water or not, having weeks go by sans fish hosts...> I am very persistent with my tank maintenance and all levels of Ammonia and Nitrites are Zero, there is the slightest trace of Nitrate but not anything that I could see being a problem. SG 1.024, PH is a little low at between 7.9 - 8.0 and temp. at 25 degrees C. Any light that you could shed on the issue would be greatly appreciated and I look forward to your response, Thank you in advance, Tim, Newcastle, Australia <If it were me/mine Tim, I'd go the bleach route... and either secure tank-bred clowns (Ocellaris or Perculas in such a small volume) or run wild of the same species through dip/baths before introduction. See WWM re all topics. Bob Fenner>

Clownfish with indentations  11/21/07 Hello, My Ocellaris clownfish, whom I have had for nearly three years, has recently developed two identical "dents" or indentations on both sides of the white stripe closest to her eyes. <Would you send along a close-up image of this please?> She has otherwise been behaving completely normal. She lives in a 20g long tank with 20 lbs of LR, a Tunze nano filter with Chemipure, and a couple of powerheads. I have checked the chemical balances and found them all to be where they should. I keep the salinity around 34 - 35 ppt. I use RO/DI water for top offs and water changes. She is fed formula one pellets with either Selcon, Zoë, or VitaChem along with garlic. Have you encountered these indents before? Do you know why they have appeared? <Mmm, perhaps a deficiency syndrome, maybe some sort of mineral imbalance... could be from a few influences... I would add a bit of live rock... to see if this condition might be relieved... The fact that you state it is symmetrical...> I found one person on your website that had asked this same question, and Bob replied by saying it was likely a genetic thing or developmental. <Yes... but this is not much of a useful stmt.... Does not lead to steps to correct, or even understand...> With the age of my fish, though, I am unsure if that is the case. <Clownfishes can live for about 20 years in captivity...> Thank you! It is much appreciated. Sincerely, Heather <I would try the LR... a refugium, "mud" filtration might reverse this situation. Please see WWM re FAQs on "Rationale/Use" of each of these technologies. Bob Fenner>

Dead Percula Clown 8/4/05 Hello Crew, <Dr. E.> I am in mourning, last night one of my percula clowns, I have had for 4-5 months, died unexpectedly. I noticed the night before he/she was swimming in place and breathing very fast and was not interested in food, which was a first. The next day I came home from work and it was getting its final cleaning from my skunk cleaner shrimp. My other fish (yellow tang, hippo tang, 2 firefish, royal Gramma, flame angel, and perc clown) are doing very well in my 120g reef tank. I checked my parameters (ammonia, pH, SG, Salinity, Alkalinity, Nitrate, Nitrite) they are all normal (or haven't deviated over the last 6 months). I haven't added any new fish in over 2 months. I have live rock and assorted corals and clams. Do you have any clues of what might have happened? <Mmm, not really... mysterious... but does happen with these fishes> I inspected the body of the dead clown and there was no evidence of external parasites or trauma.  I get a lot concerned when a fish dies, especially a hardy clown. Thank you. <Me too... I do suspect some aspect, internal complaint... not easily detected by gross necropsy... Perhaps a genetic disorder. From your writing, I take it you have at least another clownfish... and that it seems fine... I would replace this lost one with another of the same species, tank bred. Size, smaller. Bob Fenner>

Sick Ocellaris Clownfish... poisoned by BGA likely Hello Crew, I want to thank you for a wonderful site that you have. I have had my 80 gallon tank w 90lb of live rock set up for about a year and found your site about 10 months ago and you have made it quite enjoyable. <Ah, good> My tank has the following inhabitants, yellow tang, coral beauty, 2 ocellaris clownfish, blue damsel , 2 firefish gobies and a lawnmower blenny, 2 cleaner shrimp, feather duster and misc. snails and crabs. The clownfish were the last thing I added back in late October. My water parameters are as follows ph -8.3,nitrites and ammonia -0, spec grav - 1.024, nitrates at 15ppm and temp at 78. The reason I am writing to you is one day in early January, 2 of my then 3 clownfish were swimming funny, the next morning one was in the rocks unable to control his motion. I was able to grab him with a net and kept him there until I returned from work. Unfortunately the other clown was dead in the rocks and a crab dinner. The only thing I can think of is that during a weekly water change I used a toothbrush and siphon to scrub a rock of what can best be described as a red carpet. <Likely a BGA/Cyanobacteria mat/colony... this could be a/the root cause, though clowns do "just die" when small/er at times> The clowns are aggressive eater and I thought that they may have ingested some of this "red carpet". I put the injured clownfish in a small hospital refugium inside the main tank. I observed for a while and no other signs of trouble with the other inhabitants occurred. He has been there ever since. He is not able to control his swimming motion. He basically swims on his left side, on top of the water and curls up in a U position.  He is active (the other clownfish is always near), eats daily (I target feed him) and has no color loss. Do you have any suggestions on what can be done ? I do have a 30 gallon QT tank but would buy a 10 gallon if medication was suggested. <I suspect that the swimming, neuronal difficulty is incurable... that this is probably a developmental/genetic anomaly... I would place the fish back in the main tank... as this is not catching. Bob Fenner>

Clownfish Deaths- No Laughing Matter Hello, thanks for your time, I hope you can help! <Hope that I can! Scott F. with you today!> Background: I have a 70 gallon reef tank.  I am using a DSB method with approximately 100 lbs of live rock.  I have ~300watts of compact fluorescent lighting, and an aqua C EV-120. The tank seems to be in excellent condition, with no ammonia or nitrogen problems.  I have a Yellow Tang, Psychedelic Goby, Firefish, algae blenny and a decent amount of Gorgonia, Ricordea, polyps, and LPS. Everybody looks excellent and all of the corals are also doing great.  BUT. . . I seem to have problems with clowns.  I have a small green bubble and would really like to see it have a clown.  I have bought a small tomato clown a month ago and it seemed fine in the LFS tanks.  Put him in my tank, and he starts breathing heavily. Within 2 days, he died.  Towards the end, he had also started to develop a thick slime coating.  Is that Brooklynella? <Sounds very much like Brooklynella. This is an extremely virulent disease that is most common with imported clownfish. Perhaps if you purchase tank-raised specimens you'll avoid this potential problem. Do quarantine all new arrivals, of course> No other fish was affected and everybody else seems to be doing great.  So, I wait a month for whatever it was to hopefully fix itself.  I then saw a nice little sebae clown and picked him up.  He looked healthy in the LFS again, but within 1.5 days, same thing---heavy breathing, and slight color loss this time.  Dead.  I have now verified that my tank is a clown killer, and want to remedy this.  If you can tell me what I'm doing wrong, I'd appreciate it. Thanks for any help and advice, Scott <Well, Scott, I'd insist on purchasing tank-raised specimens, as mentioned above. I'd also consider purchasing your fish from a different LFS, and be very careful in selecting appropriate specimens, and quarantining/acclimating them carefully. You should see some success here. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

"Nemo" In Distress! (Very Sick Clownfish)  Hi,  <Hey there! Scott F. with you today!>  My husband and I recently started up our first saltwater tank (approx. 1 1/2 months ago). Our first fish was a tank-raised percula clown fish.  <A nice choice!>  He had been doing great until two nights ago. He started laying on the sand, hiding behind one of the large live rocks. Then yesterday, he was still hiding and lying on his side at times. His eyes seems to be very bulgy and he has become rather faded. My husband noticed yesterday that he does have some red spots on one side. We did put "Nemo" into a hospital tank (yesterday afternoon), and are currently using Maracyn-Two (today will be day 2 for the medication). I was also reading to try the CopperSafe concurrently with the Maracyn-Two - should I try this as well?  <I would hold off for now. Copper can be a bit tough on many fishes, especially if the fish is receiving another medication. I am a big advocate of copper use, but let's give the Maracyn a chance to do the job first>  He is still alive, but not kicking. He is face down, tail up on the bottom of the tank. I just recently noticed (within the past 10 minutes) that he has a white strand extending from the bottom of him. Could you please help me out and let me know if you think he may survive whatever he has?  Any help would be greatly appreciated.  Thank You, Heather  <Well, Heather- the white strand that you are observing could be either mucus or body slime, or it could be fecal material, if it appears to be coming from the fish's anus. Body slime and mucus could be indicative of a possible parasitic condition. Is the fish showing any other symptoms, such as lack of appetite, difficulty breathing, or visible scratching? If this is the case, then I DO recommend that you begin copper treatment after all. You could be looking at the very serious Amyloodinium (Marine Velvet), and the Popeye could simply be a secondary infection of some sort. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to the letter when using any of the medications we've discussed. If you intervene appropriately and quickly, the fish has pretty good odds of making a full recovery...Hope things work out! Regards, Scott F>

Disappearing Fish <Anthony Calfo in your service> Bob, I have had a green Chromis and a clownfish disappear with in three days.  <newly added or old established fish?> I didn't find any left over body parts any where. All I have left is (2) peppermint shrimp (1) clownfish and (1) green Chromis. Would the peppermint shrimp attack and eat a fish <not even possible... would only scavenge dead/dying> or is there something else in my tank that would do that? <indeed...pathogen, predator or parameter> I do have LR in my tank with a couple of Spaghetti Worms, however last night I saw a different type of worm that look like a string of snot.  <thank you for that visual... dinner just went to hell in a hand basket> Sorry I didn't want to be gross, that is the only description I could think of.  <not your fault that I have a vivid imagination...hehe> In order for my to get rid of all of the worms, I may make a tub of saltwater with the salinity being very high and having it sit for about an hour.  <why!?!?!?!?! My friend, most worms are beneficial... and of the few that are not, you have not even identified one possible candidate. Sounds like a good way to kill a lot of good things on your live rock> Rinse it off and put it back in the tank. I have a 45 gallon tank with 45 lb. of LR it will take a little of time. If there is a better method please let me know I really don't want to kill all of my Coralline Algae.  <two words...massive die-off. Please forgive me, but I'm missing why it is you suspect worms of murder. Are the fish new, and were they quarantined? What were the water quality readings, etc. More homework my friend. No knee-jerk reactions, please. Anthony> Thanks for your help. <quite welcome>

Found fish <Anthony still> Bob, my wife found the other clownfish, however it seems to swim low on the bottom of tank. This particular fish ate a little bit yesterday but seem to not want to leave the bottom and breaths a little heavy.  <vague symptoms... how long have you had the fish?> There are no visible sighs of disease. Should I place him into the hospital tank for now and try to figure out what is going on?  <depends if he is new or not... a new fish should not be moved three times in as many days (store, to home to QT...a surefire way to kill it and ironic to not have used the QT first as it was designed to be used. If the fish is established... then perhaps, but I can't diagnose from here on such general symptoms> The other fish are not effected, I still can not find my other green Chromis. Thanks <kindly, Anthony>

Re: Disappearing Fish Anthony, the Green Chromises I have had for 3 months and the Clownfishes I have had for 1.5 months. The clownfish that died looked kind of funny when I got him, however his behavior was normal.  <eh...the fish were held by you long enough that you'll want to look for an influence like water quality, parasite or predator> His dorsal fin seemed to be allot smaller than normal and his head seem kind of large. Maybe a birth defect. <or maybe he was a union leader or politician in the fish world (the big head is symptomatic)... on no, that can't be... this creature has a spine> I have red Cyano bact. algae on some of my live rock. Should I take out the live rock and scrub of this algae and rinse it off using tank water.  <please don't bother.. a simple matter of nutrient export. Better skimming, chemical filtration and/or water changes (assuming water is not nutrient rich)> I have a nice protein skimmer on it's way (Remora Pro) I think this will solve my algae growth.  <yes. could easily. Learn to work it well> The protein skimmer I have now "sucks".  <contributory/cause of nuisance algae> What exactly is the best way to get rid of the Cyano bacteria (red algae with out having major die off. <honestly.. just aggressive skimming for two weeks collecting dark product daily> Thanks for your help <very welcome! Anthony Calfo>

Clown deaths? Dear Sir, Thank you kindly for the prompt and helpful e-mail you guys sent back to me regarding my clean up crew. They all seem settled in nicely. <wonderful to hear> Before I start with my new questions here's my tank setup. 72 gallon bow-front, 90lbs liverock, protein skimmer, wet dry sump, two Hagen powerheads an 402 and a 802. Water conditions are all in line ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 5-10 Alkalinity 14 ph 8.4 and calcium at around 400ppm. <overall very good but do consider extra water movement in a tank this size to help prevent detritus from accumulating...sounds weak> Now for the next problems. I received shipment of two tank raised Ocellaris Clowns and a Sebae anemone last Tuesday. (after reading your info on the Sebae I wish I had stayed away from that fellow).  <alas...too common of a problem> I acclimatized the fish and anemone and dropped them in (the anemone I placed on the substrate). I noticed right away that one of the two clowns didn't look so good. They both swam well together but one of them looked as if his fins were slightly worn and there was possibly tiny white blemishes on his sides. Well the next morning I found the little fellow dead and sucked up the powerhead. The other one looked fairly stressed and would no longer come to the front of the tank when anyone was stood there. He also didn't seemed to eat anything although he still spent all of his time in the powerhead stream snapping at any bits that were blown by. This morning I found him dead and sucked up the 402 powerhead. I was wondering if you could give me any hints as to what went wrong. These were my first two fish in the new aquarium so I don't want to rush out and have others shipped to me until I can figure out the problem. As for the anemone it has settled down in the substrate and seems to be doing ok. <hmmm... tough to diagnose without seeing symptoms... but clowns commonly ship poorly and are only hardy (very) once established. External parasites and other skin conditions are quite common with them. The first problem, my friend, was that you didn't quarantine them. New fish should never be added directly to a display tank because if they express disease symptoms they cannot be caught or medicated easily. Do set up and use a QT tank. Secondly, you are braver than I am to buy fish sight unseen. With your remote residence, you really must have a hospital tank set up> Thank you for your help in advance. Your website has been very helpful to especially since I live in the mountains in Colorado - the closest saltwater fish store is three hours drive. Cheers, Simon. <kindly, Anthony>

Clownfish worries  9/8/05 Good afternoon, <Morning here presently> I wanted to thank you all for putting together such a great and informative site! I've been searching your FAQ's and related information and still can't seem to locate an answer to my particular problem. <Okay> I have a 90 gallon Oceanic Reef Ready Tank, 200lbs live rock, 160lbs reef sand (40lbs was live and used to seed my sand bed), 520 watts of PC lighting (260w 12K/ 260w Actinic), Remora Protein Skimmer, Canister Filter (using Purigen), Sump (20gallon, Macro alga's, snails, pods etc.) and 4 power heads on a wave timer. My system has been up and running correctly for about 3 months. Water Parameters have been very stable Temp-80, Alk 5 meq/L, PH 8.1, SG 1.024, Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 2.   My Tank is full of various snails, worms, hermit crabs, shrimp and pods. I also have a Scooter Blenny, Rock Anemone and small colony of Candy Cane Coral. All life is healthy and thriving........ my concern is with my clown fish. 3 weeks ago I purchased 2 tank raised false Perc's from a reputable dealer (That Fish Place) <Good folks, business> driving there 2 hours to bring them home to reduce stress as much as possible. I didn't quarantine them since they were tank bred and raised and my fish stock is so low at the moment. I picked out a small and medium sized fish in hopes of getting them to pair up. Both were very active and had no signs of disease or physical problems. The little one was more vividly colored from the beginning. I could never get the larger one to eat in any volume. I tried all kinds of foods ( including what they used and recommended at the Fish Store) and he/she would only eat small amounts while the other clown gorged himself on anything I offered. After a week of not eating properly or at all and the larger clown fish died. With the exception of weight all else seemed normal. Any clue's? <Happens... may be that the more bright one is influencing the others behavior... it...> 5 days ago I purchased another small (< 1") tank bred False Percula and placed him in the tank after acclimation. Now the original fish has grown to about 1.5 inches and has been readily feeding and very active since his purchase. They are both very friendly with each other and seem to be getting along great. My concern is now with my larger (original small) clown. Yesterday I noticed what seemed to be an almost overnight change in his/her appearance in the facial region.....(larger mouth, lips and different look to his head). If he is changing sexes would this type of change occur? <Is, does> Color is still vivid, nice weight with no signs of disease or parasites etc. Also he has not eaten since yesterday, his mouth opens when he breaths but his breathing is not rapid (normal?) <Likely> and he seems lethargic. Has been laying on the bottom of the sand bed where he usually rests but is not greeting me or swimming in the current like his normal self. He is acting almost like the first clown I had that passed away and I'm not sure what to do or look for if anything. Seeking advice and any help you can give me!! Thanks so much, Mike Motze <Likely "normal" behavior... I take it you've read through the "Clownfish" article/FAQs on WWM: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/fishes/part2.htm at the bottom. Bob Fenner>
Re: Clownfish worries  9/9/05 Thanks Bob, I have been reading all the information I can find on your site for the past 2 days on disease and clownfish. My clown still has me worried! He seemed somewhat interested in food last night but still wouldn't feed. <The loss of its mate, takes a while to adjust...> Laying around, no jump in his fins. Reading through your facts I found mention of an internal parasite and the question was asked about a clear stringy poop. I can't find that FAQ again, but I did notice this type of poop right before the lethargy started. I also clicked a few pics I'm sending along. <Mmm, the mouth of this fish is deformed... not likely a problem other than appearance... genetic> The mouth differences are visible (almost like large dimples). Color is still great and my tests on water parameters done last night are all good as well. Temp 80, Alk 5.5meq/L , PH 8.2, SG 1.024, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 2. Could this possibly be a parasite? <Not likely. More a stress reaction... akin to pimples in humans> And how would you recommend I go about treating this? My other clown and blenny are fine. All inverts are happy. Thanks again, Mike <I would not "treat" this fish, system... This fish does have an apparent genetic deformity with its mouth... Bob Fenner>

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