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FAQs on Wrasse Disease/Health 1

Related Articles: Wrasses, Wrasses of the Cooks

FAQs on Wrasse Disease by Category: Diagnosis, Environmental, Nutritional, Social, Infectious, Parasitic (See also: Wrasses & Crypt), Trauma, Treatments,

Related FAQs: Wrasse Disease 2, Wrasses, Wrasses 2Wrasse Identification, Wrasse Selection, Wrasse Behavior, Wrasse Compatibility, Wrasse Systems, Wrasse Feeding, Wrasse Reproduction

Cirrhilabrus filamentosus, young male. Aquarium pic by Hiroyuki Tanaka. 

What's That Spot On His Wrasse? Hello, <Hi! Scott F. here today!> I have a small sixline wrasse, maybe 1.5 inches in length. When I got him he seemed fine, then I noticed a small white, raised dot above the false eye on his tail fin. A day or two after, he and the clowns with him got ich. <Grr...Frustrating. Did you quarantine him upon purchase? Be sure to do this in the future if you aren't engaging in this practice now, okay?> Well, I treated hyposalinity for 6-7 weeks, the clowns and wrasse cleaned up nicely, except for that one spot which seems to disappear sometimes, but always returns to the exact same spot . I have raised the salinity in the hospital tank from the hyposaline 1.007 to 1.015, and will be moving it up further to transfer my clowns back to the tank. However the spot on my wrasse remains, although he is eating well and looks very healthy otherwise. So my question is, is this spot actually ich or just a raised coloring of some kind? I've noticed the same spot on other pictures of sixline wrasse. <Funny you should mention this. I had a Sixline for years that always had a similar bump on this spot. It never went away, and never got worse. Does that mean it was nothing? Probably not. On the other hand, it was not contagious, nor did it annoy the fish in any way. I'd keep a close eye on the fish anyways, just to make sure that things don't decline> Anyway, my plan is to maintain the hospital tank at full salinity for another week or two with just him in it, and see if he develops ich, if he doesn't then I will transfer him back to the main tank. <I won't argue with that strategy. Better to be safe than sorry, and certainly better to make sure that the fish is, indeed ill before "treating" him> Do you have any ideas or suggestions regarding this spot? <As you are doing: Observe carefully, and treat only if it becomes a problem. Take care! Regards, Scott F.>

- Tuskfish with Lockjaw? - We have had our Tuskfish for several months in 125gal tank along with a pink tail trigger and a Cuban hogfish.  The Tuskfish is about 8'' long.  About a week ago he stopped eating and started hiding, the fish comes out at feeding time and looks like he can't open his mouth. Having had a puffer that finally died from a locked jaw I am wondering if Tuskfish are prone to this as well, or is something else going on? <Doubt this is the problem. Puffer "lockjaw" as you call it, is really due to the fact that their teeth grow constantly, and need a source of roughage that will keep their teeth worn down. In absence of shelled mollusks and crustaceans, the puffer's teeth grow together until they are no longer able to open their mouths. Tuskfish do not have the same type of dentition so will not have this problem, but are prone to hunger strikes... often based on mood, social pressure [over-crowding or harassment], water quality, or all of the above. Just stick with the fish, they can go at the very least a couple of weeks without food. I would also check that this fish is actually able to see... there is a known condition with these fish losing their eyesight from copper overdoses, so do make sure this fish still responds to visual stimuli.> We have checked the water and it is as it should be. <Do keep in mind that there can be other issues with water quality that will not show up on any hobbyist test kit.> I am fond of this fish and hate the thought of losing him.  I even offered up live ghost shrimp, the other fish loved it but the harlequin ate nothing. Please help and thank you for whatever you can suggest. <Stick with it.> Myke <Cheers, J -- >

Wacky Wrasse?  Howdy, I bought a Lunare Wrasse 2 days ago. When I was vacuuming the wrasse got a little frisky, and hopped out of the tank. I got him back in after about 45 seconds to one minute. It was a close one, but now he just lays there and breathes. All of his color is still there, and my chemicals are pristine.  <Given time, he can make a full recovery. keep an eye on him, and make sure that he eats. Continue to maintain excellent water quality>  Also, is it normal for a wrasse to lay around except for the outbursts of energy where he shoots around the tank and eats? Jeffery  <Yep- wrasses are known for some of their wacky antics. If there are no disease signs, and the water parameters are as good as you say- I'd chalk it up to typical wrasse behavior. Given what your wrasse went through, I'd say that he has a good chance at a full recovery. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

6 line wrasse I have recently purchased a six line wrasse. On the second day he was in the tank, he started to swim head down. He still has lots of energy, eats, and has spats with the other tankmates periodically. Is this normal behavior? I was trying to wade through the FAQs on wrasses, but was unable to find specifically. Thanks <It may be that this fish is "adjusting" from the effects of capture, specifically that it has suffered internal damage from too-rapid ascent or being "poked" by its collector in the wild. Could be symptomatic of a "gut" blockage possibly... At any length, not "natural" or desirable. All one can do is hope and watch at any length. I'm rootin' for your wrasses recovery! Bob Fenner>

Reader Input Re: Patchy Wrasse >Long time listener, first time caller. In regards to "Daniel" who asked about his sick sixline wrasse, I too had the same issue. His pics, while blurry, look just like my new sixline. I was told by my LFS that they had already guaranteed the animal for 4 weeks and I had nothing to worry about. Live and learn on that issue. My param.s were all in the normal range and nitrites, nitrates, and phosphates were all undetectable. I thought he was a goner but I performed a couple of small water changes, fed various Selcon soaked frozen foods and in 3 weeks time, all of the patches were gone. Scott >>Great, thanks for the input, Scott!  Marina

- Strange Wrasse Affliction? - We have a green bird wrasse that has been in our tank for about 9 months.  The wrasse has seemingly thrived up until recently.  He is still eating well and actively swimming but has come down with some sought of white, almost washed out look on the sides of its head.  Could this be the bird wrasse equivalent of HLLE? <Doubt that.> Any possible help and insight would be greatly appreciated. <Well... provided you haven't added anything new as of late, then I would guess this is probably a nutrition related blanching. Do you feed this fish the same thing for every meal - or is the diet more diverse. This fish should be getting a mix of meaty foods with the occasional green seaweed item thrown in.> Thanks Al <Cheers, J -- >

- Harlequin Tuskfish with Problems - I just purchased a Harlequin Tuskfish 2 days ago.  When I first got him home much to my surprise I noticed a tiny white spot on his anal fin.  I called the pet store and they said that it was probably from moving stress and it would go away so I have just been keeping an eye on it.  Then this morning (two days after) I go to check on him and his left eye has become puffy and clouded and he is laying behind a piece of coral breathing heavily, but his right eye looks normal.  I freaked out and immediately called the pet store and they asked me what the salinity was.  I have it at between 1.024-1.025 and he said it was WAY too high so I removed some water and am doing a drip of freshwater into the system. <I disagree... 1.024 - 1.025 is actually ideal - is what the salinity of the ocean is.> The Tuskfish is the only fish in a 55 gallon with crushed coral substrate and some live rock. Stats on the tank are: salinity 1.024-1.025 (but I am lowering it now to get it to 1.022) pH - 8.0 ammonia - 0 nitrite - 0 nitrate - 40 ppm (I have had the tank up 2.5 months with 15-20 gallon water changes 1X per week and am now doing them every two days to lower the nitrates) phosphate - 0 alkalinity ~ 2.2 Is there anything else I can do? <I'd give it some time, and work on your patience. I know it's stressful to see these issues with your fish, but I can give you reasonable assurances that it will work out all right. First the spot on the tail is not really abnormal - these fish often have the odd spot or two on their tail or pectoral fins - in fact, I bet if I go look at my Tuskfish right now, it will have a spot or two. Nothing really to be worried about. As for the swollen eye, this is a condition called pop-eye and is typically the result of bumping into something... the result is swelling of the eye. You can add a little Epsom salts to the tank which will help the fish deal with the swelling, but it will take many days to a week or so for that to remedy itself. As long as the fish is on its own in that tank, I'm sure it will be fine.> I am panicking and don't want to lose this beautiful fish. <Don't panic.> Please tell me if there is anything else I can do. <Breathe deeply... relax.> Thank you Vivian <Cheers, J -- >
- Harlequin Tuskfish with Problems, Follow-up -
Jason, <Hi.> Sorry to bother you again but I have just one more question.  What about the fact that he doesn't really want to move and is laying on the bottom against a piece of live rock breathing heavily.  Because of this heavy breathing I thought it was something more than Popeye. <Oh... well, you didn't mention that before ;-) > I lowered temp to 78 and salinity to 1.022 to get more oxygen in the water and there is a Skilter and 2 BioWheels on the tank and there are two pumps pumping air into the under gravel filter which add a little more oxygen hopefully. <Oh, for certain.> He is still eating some though if I put some good food right in front of his face like some squid.  And about Epsom salts, how much should I add and is it safe with live rock in the tank? <One teaspoon per five gallons.> Anything else I can do to help with his breathing? <Give it some time - these fish are typically caught with a barbless hook and line so when they show up at the wholesaler and eventually your house, they are WILD! with perhaps more exclamation points than that - they are quite freaked out, and take several weeks to come down from all the excitement. I think your fish will come around too, but will take some time. I'd leave the lights off on the tank and just make sure it is eating - squid is a great choice along with some clams or other meaty seafood.> Thank you SOOO much for your help, I really want to save my little guy <Me too.> Vivian
<Cheers, J -- >

Wrasse growth spurt??? Hi there!  When we bought "Ziggy" - our wrasse - we were told he is a Melanurus wrasse.  Looking at some online photos though, I'm not quite sure he is.  I took the best picture of him that I could for you.  Hopefully it will not only help you to help me diagnose his possible problem/illness but maybe you can also verify that he is in fact a Melanurus wrasse.  If not - that's okay too.  He's Ziggy to us. Ok so the REAL problem here is that Ziggy has been swimming around for about a week and a half now with his mouth open constantly.  He never closes it anymore - ever.  And it's beginning to worry us.  First though, I must tell you that about 6 months ago he went through what we assume was a growth spurt.  He was swimming with his head always to one side a bit (which he's doing again) and seemed to have trouble burying himself to sleep.<hmm... what kind of trouble?>  One morning we thought he was dead (6 months ago) when we found him buried head and tail but not his midsection.<yes, many species of wrasse bury themselves in the substrate at night>  I gently scooped at the gravel near him and he swam out.<yup>  Anyway, he eventually - after probably 2 or 3 weeks - was totally fine and he looked like he had grown a ton over night.<yes, wrasses tend to grow rapidly>  His head was straight, he seemed to be sleeping better, etc.  And I must tell you that we have a clownfish that likes to move the gravel to the front of the tank with his tail so we're constantly trying to make sure there's enough gravel back there for!<LOL> Ziggy to go to bed.  I think we're doing a pretty good job of that but maybe we're not if you think that that may be the cause of his strange actions.<your doing a fine job>  So now Ziggy is eating well and doesn't seem to be getting picked on by anyone else.<good>  He doesn't have spots, isn't scratching, his fins look good, he doesn't seem to be breathing any heavier than normal, etc. but his mouth is open and his head is turned a little to the side all the time again.<A lot of fast moving wrasses swim with there mouths open.. I would not be too concerned with this. If he starts showing symptoms of disease... then worry>  We're worried also that since he can't seem to close his mouth (and it is wide open) that he might be having trouble burying himself.<doubtful... he most likely can close his mouth>  He seems so uncomfortable.  The only other possible "symptom" is that he seems a little more lethargic lately. <Do check your water quality-always check water parameters when fish seem to be acting weird> Last night, we almost thought he laid on the bottom sideways like he was dying but by the time we got close enough to see he was swimming again.<he pulled a Houdini> It was very close to his bed time and he always swims slowly near the bottom and live rock (not so much out in the open water like he does during the day) around bed time.  He's always been a very active swimmer.. <yes, waiting for his last meal> I'm almost positive he did that last time too though - the lethargy thing not the laying on the bottom thing.  During the day, he appears to be almost normal except his head, his mouth, and I'd say he's a bit less active than he was before this. <again check water quality> Are "growth spurts" typical of a wrasse?<yes>  That's what the last time seemed like to me but this time his mouth is open and it's really got me concerned.  Any thoughts? <don't think there is a problem... as long as this fish continues to eat... and your water checks out fine, I would not be concerned.> I really appreciate your guidance.  Thank you!
April <good luck, IanB>

Blind Bird Wrasse? FOWLR has 6" Volitans Lion, 5"Red Sea Male Bird Wrasse, and about 30" Snowflake EEL was just added today (Sea World leftover, long story) <Long- I should say! An interesting story, I'll bet!> For awhile now the Bird Wrasse has had a hard time feeding. He knows that food has hit the water and he searches for it but can't seem to find it. We've tried live ghost shrimp, flakes, frozen clams, and frozen silversides. We started back up with the SELCON thinking it maybe it was a vitamin deficiency. <Not a bad thought on your part...You could also try a preparation like Vita Chem> He doesn't seem to have any other problems and is a beautiful animal. Our lights are not that bright, a single 40W tube. Any thoughts on this one? <Well, it could be lot's of things...Nutritional problems can lead to a form of blindness in some fishes, and I wouldn't rule out this as a possibility. You may also consider the environment of the aquarium: Recheck all water parameters to make sure that there are no measurable ammonia, nitrite, or other toxins in the water. Check overall water quality: Nitrates and phosphates...Review maintenance procedures, such as water changes, protein skimming, use of chemical filtration media, etc. Keep trying to get this fish to eat, using a variety of foods like you already have. Observe carefully for signs of any disease, etc. In the absence of other symptoms, I'd keep observing and stay the course with this fish. Be patient. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>  

Wrasse problems Attached are some pictures. Things have seemed to turn for the worst, he stopped eating as of recently (last day or so), and is becoming more and more lethargic.<doesn't sound good> To answer your questions in the email - our water quality is perfect.... every parameter is within spec (tested by us, as well as the LFS). <Maybe he is getting picked on or he is severely stressed. How are the other fish? Do they seem to be acting lethargic as well?> Any other last suggestions - we are soooo worried we are going to lose our favorite wrasse :((((((<Honestly. if he isn't showing any signs of disease, the water quality is perfect, the other fish are fine, then I don't know what to tell you, I would just watch him very closely. looking for signs of disease and check the water often, Good Luck, IanB> ~April & Bill
No, not good at all.  He isn't getting picked on at all. I've even stayed home and watched during the day to ensure it. <wow what dedication :)> My wife said that he didn't bury himself last night to sleep.<Hmm.. honestly I don't know what's wrong with your wrasse...this is not normal behavior. Wrasses love to eat, so when he/she doesn't eat-its normally a sign that something is wrong. If your water quality is good, he isn't getting picked on and disease isn't present. then I don't know what to tell you other than to just wait and see what happens>  I can't see what other stressors there would be in the tank, temp's stable, food, etc everything has been the same. Is it normal for wrasses to be "odd" during growth?<These fish are always growing so I don't really know what you are referring to when you say during growth (they don't just grow for a little while and stop) and yes they behave oddly. like swimming back and forth in the aquarium. moving rocks etc.. they rarely just stop eating though> How long can something like this last?<Don't know> All other fish in system are great.<that's good, again I would just continue to keep a close eye on everything. diseases.. etc (like what you are doing now), Good Luck my friend, IanB>

Re: The Yellow Wrasse Blues >FYI the poor guy didn't make it. I would still like to hear any suggestions that anyone has concerning the matter. As I really don't wish that to happen again. Everyone else is doing fine but I'm keeping a close eye on them. >>I'm sorry to hear that, Alex.  The thing is this paralysis bit is a real stumper.  Spent some time over the past couple of days going through some books, FINALLY got some of my own old books early this morning, but I can find NOTHING.  Persistence, eh?  Hopefully, this was simply an anomaly.  Marina

Head butting wrasse Hi, I'll keep this short, I have a yellow Coris wrasse that was in QT for 10 days< Not long enough!  All new fish should be in QT for at least 3 weeks> - did fine - has been in the main tank for a few weeks.  Has been eating everything offered and seems happy.  Today, I noticed that instead of "browsing" the tank like usual (I normally get to watch them for about 1/2 - 1 hour each day), he has been circling around one corner area and "head butting" the glass.  Any suggestions?  Has he finally figured out that he is captive?  There doesn't seem to be any sign of infections/parasites, etc. (though always a possibility I guess). Tank Info: 1 Flame Angel Couple of Common Percula (false) Clowns the 1 wrasse 1 cleaner shrimp some snails Caulerpa 90 Gal w/ Live Rock SG 1.022 Ammonia 0 Nitrite 0 Nitrate less than 10 PH 8.2 Temp about 77 (all tested today to be sure there was no environmental problem) Thanks. Diana < He has likely just found out he has a reflection.  Don't worry about it, as he will eventually back off.  Cody>
Head butting wrasse
Thanks for your reply Cody - I tend to worry too much sometimes about the little things ...  I think you were right as the next day he did stop - though he did bruise himself (I noticed a reddened area under his scales where he kept hitting) - but that too has healed within two days and all is back to normal - I also think I found his favorite food - minced scallop from the grocery store... he even steals it right out of the mouths of the other fish!  Anyway thanks for your help. Diana <Awesome!  Great to hear of success, best regards, Cody>

Sick Coris Wrasse Hi Guys, I have been successfully keeping a Lime Green Coris Wrasse for around 8 months. He was around 1 inch long when I got him and he has steadily grown to over 4 inches. He has never had problems eating and has never been harassed by other fish or had any other problems until yesterday morning when I found him belly up on the bottom of my display tank. I thought he was dead but noticed his gills still moving...and not moving fast either but breathing normally. <Yikes>   I nudged him lightly with my tongs and he tried to swim away but could only wriggled around on his back.  I did notice that his belly seems to be enlarged, but he has always had somewhat of a "big belly". All of my other fish are doing great and eating well and there has really not been any changes made in my system to cause such a sudden effect. <Frightening> Is there anyway to determine what caused this poor fish to get sick ? <Not as far as I'm aware> Also, is this fish doomed or is there anything I can do to save him ? <Really only able to wait at this point. Hopefully your wrasse will "cure" spontaneously as it has taken ill. Bob Fenner> Regards, Chuck Spyropulos

Infected Sore  Hi Bob,  I recently acquired a 4-line Red Sea Wrasse (Larabicus.) He had a  small sore where his tailfin connects to his body, on the bottom. This  sore seems to be getting slowly bigger. I've read through your site and  changed all the Chemipure and 10% of the water but I'm worried I should do more. Should I treat with formalin? Anything else? Will Novaqua do  anything? Not formalin... not Novaqua... maybe Selcon soaked food if this animal is still feeding... and perhaps another Cleaner will assist it... I'd try a species of Lysmata Shrimp, Pacific> He is in a reef tank, do I need to put him back in the hospital.  <No, more stressful than useful> Water tests: Nitrate 0, SPG 1.022, temp 78, alk 4.3 meq/L, dKH 12, cal 450 ppm.  Thank you, Brian Battles  <Hmm, saw a nice one of these (a female) at a friends LFS just last night... unfortunately, this is a species that can/does keep going "down hill" if impugned... try the above soon, as in NOW. Bob Fenner>

Wrasses? have 2 wrasse-related questions..... picked up a cleaner wrasse about a month ago; after purchasing, have since learned about the choice being a poor one and will not support their sale in the future....in any case, mine has been well, busy, darting about, picking away at everyone, eating brine shrimp, etc.. <resist the brine shrimp.. a very nutritively poor food. Fish can starve to death eating a lot of it (mostly water). Try Pacifica plankton, Mysid shrimp, etc> I noticed, however, that it retreats to a hole in a honeycomb rock every night and doesn't emerge for 10-12 hours at a time. I read that wrasses create some sort of sleeping cocoon and haven't been too worried about it until recently; the past 3 days the little dude hasn't emerged from his hole (though I can see his tail sticking out) and when I tried to shake the rock a bit yesterday to see if he was ok, he slid out, swam around for about 30 seconds, then flopped over a rock and looked drunk, <hmmm... sounds bad> draped over the rock, until about a minute later returning to his sleeping hole. wondering if I should leave him alone in there, (it has been 3 days) or take some action. <if there are no signs of disease... do leave it in peace. Unlikely an acclimating period (more likely it is on its way to becoming a statistic)... but we should not educate or treat without knowing what to treat for> 2nd question in regards to a 6-line wrasse that joined the aquarium about a week ago; has been great, beautiful, busy....however, I notice it swims with it's tail up, almost vertically much of the time...not swimming laboriously, however, just looks weird. (is that even a word..."laboriously?")....anyway, he seems healthy, strong, eating regularly, not sure if it's just the way he is or if it's an indication of upcoming trouble...  <strange yes.. but a quirky fish by nature. Keep observing and relax after continued good feeding and behavior otherwise> thanks for all of the Yoda-like fish wisdom. <quite welcome... but I don't have as much hair growing from my ears as Yoda...yet. Anthony>

Question: I work at a fish store and do aquarium maintenance on the side. I have recently (in the past few months) come across a rather interesting (yet very bothersome) phenomenon. The first is with wrasses, especially with those of the genus Anampses and Coris. What happens is that within a week or two of getting the wrasses in, their lips appear to roll back exposing their teeth, the refuse to eat (or eat very little) and die within the same week. Are you familiar with this condition and do you know how to treat it? My other question is that I have seen (for no apparent reason, water quality checks out on all counts) black spots develop on a tang the size of Oodinium dots. Fresh water baths help to remove the ones off the fish, but when the fish is put back into the tank it is totally covered again within a couple of days. In advanced cases the fishes skin appears as though it dehydrated and wrinkled and is about to fall off. It seems to only affect tangs. Do you know what it is, why it starts up, and how to treat for it in a reef type environment? I would appreciate any help you can give me on this matter. My reputation as a professional is at stake here. I am having great difficulty at locating any information on these two conditions. Thank you for any help you can offer.
Bob's Answer:
Rob, the prognathal genera of wrasses you mention are dying as a consequence of being shipped for too long in too small a bag from the source or your supplier... very common with Anampses and Coris spp. They need to be put in large enough bags to easily turn around and either have fine sand shipped with them or the bags laid on their side so the animal can't rub its face in the corner. On arrival such animals should be quarantined and treated topically and/or via antibiotics (orally if they're eating). The black spots are a not so free living turbellarian flatworm of the genus Paravortex. A simple freshwater dip/bath will eliminate them BEFORE being placed in the main display tank... once the critters are established, biological cleaners may keep them in check otherwise.

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