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 Story of Spot, The Angelfish 
Story of Spot, The Angelfish
Story of Spot, The Angelfish

By Vicki

Copyright, November 2003

Bear with me, this is lengthy but it's a good story with useful stuff in it. If you don't want to drag through the whole story but would like to read about how to treat certain types of internal parasites, you can cut to the chase HERE. (Link to Dawn's article on de-worming)

When I received the angels from Angels Plus, I was delighted beyond words with their beauty and particularly their robust nature. I had ordered six, and Steve sent seven; and as they grew, every one of them thrived, no problems at all. When they arrived, they were placed in their own 20 gallon tank that had been set up and planted about a month before, with no tankmates except for four tank-bred ottos. They stayed in their 20 long for about four months, by which time they were between 50 cent and dollar size and needed a bigger home, and I moved them all to a 55 gallon tank that was home to cories, ottos, lemon tetras, clown loaches, a few platies, a bristlenose pleco, betta and a redtailed shark. (Yes, seven angels is a bit much for a 55 gallon with an existing population like this, but they weren't full grown yet and I had no plans to leave them all there. A few months later, only four of them remain in the 55 gallon and two more will be moving shortly.)

Before I ever ordered from Angels Plus I read everything on their website and noted that Steve recommends that his angels be kept in a tank of their own, cautioning that his fish are raised in a parasite and disease-free environment and that any tankmates should be chosen with great care, being sure that they are free of parasites, worms or any other nasties. Pshaw, I thought. My fish are healthy, they've always been healthy, I have NEVER had disease in my display tanks, no problem here, so I added them to my 55 gallon without a second thought. Once they settled in and got used to the different water circulation patterns, everything seemed fine.

After about two weeks, I noticed that one of the angels, Spot, wasn't eating. He was spending a lot of time off by himself, although he'd chase anybody that came into his area, and he had no visible symptoms of any kind of disease; in fact, he looked beautiful. Hmmmm.hunger strike? I'd heard of such things with angels but I have NEVER had an angelfish that wouldn't eat, anytime, anywhere, anything. I waited him out for the next few days-no change, except that he wasn't growing (since he wasn't eating), and was now the smallest of the seven fish by a considerable amount. I was becoming concerned, and decided to move him into a quarantine tank; I kicked the temperature up at Steve Rybicki's suggestion to 95 degrees over a period of several days. He became more active, but still would not eat, didn't even look up for baby platies, which had shown up in a different tank and which I put in with him in an attempt to tempt his appetite.

By this time, two more of the angels in the 55 gallon had stopped eating, and a couple of the others were also not eating with their usual gusto. At this point, I had to believe that they were affected by some kind of internal parasite, and realized my buddy Dawn had been right all along and that I needed to do something. Anti-parasitic food wasn't an option, he wouldn't eat, so she sent me some Levamisole Hydrochloride, a frequently used dewormer in the livestock industry, along with some online reference articles attesting to its success in treating fish, especially cichlids, and I decided to try it, because it had been three weeks, there was hardly anything left of Spot but skin over bone, and now I had other fish in trouble. Based on the articles and with her help, I figured out a dosage of teaspoon of the Levamisole powder per 10 gallons of tank water, and I treated the 10 gallon Spot was in, and did a big water change per the articles' recommendations the next day, and the day after; nothing changed, he still wouldn't eat or even look at the food, but at least the medication hadn't hurt him or anything else in the tank. I had decided to go ahead and treat the 55 gallon also in the meantime, which was REALLY traumatic for me-I have NEVER treated a display tank with any kind of medication before, had never had to-or at least, never thought I did. Levamisole remains in the water longer at a ph of neutral or below, so I lowered the ph by adding more CO2 to the tank and treated it. More trauma-after I treated the big tank, NONE of the angels would eat that night, and many of the other fish wouldn't either. AAAUUUGH! What have I done? My clown loaches disappeared, I didn't see them for two days and they're ALWAYS out front, I was sure they were dead in the back of the tank somewhere. I had treated Spot on Sunday, and the 55 gallon on Tuesday. On Thursday, I went to Spot's tank and dropped in a few frozen brine shrimp, just as I'd been doing for almost four weeks to no avail---and he ate them!!!! Frabjous day!! By now I had done the second water change on the big tank, and at feeding time that night, everybody ate like piranhas-the loaches were back and were their usual friendly, starving selves. My theory is that the Levamisole gives some fish (perhaps the ones who are indeed carrying worms) the equivalent of an upset stomach, but in a couple of days they're fine and hungrier than ever.

Actually, I knew in less than 12 hours that the Levamisole had worked, I just didn't know how it would turn out for everybody until a few days later. One of my platies in the 55 gallon had had lumps all over his body for more than a year-he was so misshapen he couldn't swim straight, but it didn't seem to affect his appetite, and except for the fact that he was lumpy and couldn't swim well, he seemed perfectly content. I had assumed that he had some sort of cysts or tumors or a genetic abnormality, and figured I'd just let him be since there didn't seem to be anything I could do about it. The morning after I treated the big tank, I was sitting on the couch and glanced at the tank, and saw a male platy I didn't recognize. Where the heck did HE come from? I got up and went over to the tank-and realized it was Lumpy! Except he wasn't lumpy anymore-he looked like a perfectly normal male platy. I was stunned, I couldn't believe that could happen overnight. Evidently those lumps weren't tumors but worms, and the poor guy had been full of them all that time, I couldn't believe it. It was the first time I realized that just because your fish look and act healthy doesn't mean they can't be carrying a parasite load; not that Lumpy looked healthy, but all the other fish always had, and Lumpy was born in one of my tanks, so he had to get them from somewhere. Introducing those pristine angels into the tank proved it-they had no resistance to any kind of parasites, never having been exposed to them before; they were under stress anyway from the move and the new set of circumstances they were in, and picked them up quickly. I was lucky that the Levamisole turned out to be effective against whatever they had, and everyone's been fine ever since-except for poor Lumpy. The death of his worms was more than his body could tolerate, and he passed away a few days after the treatment. That is always a risk when using a dewormer on heavily infested fish; the death of the worms CAN cause the death of the host in some cases, but if they're that badly affected, you don't have much to lose. After treatment, I saw a significant increase in the growth rate of my clown loaches, and a lot more activity on the part of my ottos, too. And deworming with Levamisole has become part of my protocol for new fish.

As for Spot, his recovery has been nothing short of amazing. Once he started eating, he got stronger every day and became ravenous all the time, like he was trying to make up for all those missed meals; I did my best to keep up with his appetite and feed him the best foods I could. From a fish that was skin and bones and half the size of the other angels in the group, he's gone back to being a healthy, robust fish who's caught up in size with the others. And thanks to him and poor old Lumpy, I learned a valuable lesson about fishkeeping that had never been brought home to me before. Of course, I knew about internal parasites, but it never occurred to me that MY fish had any. And the thing is, many fish carry parasite loads their whole lives without showing any effects from them, but when stress is introduced into the equation from some quarter, it makes it possible for parasites to gain the upper hand and wreak havoc. I think there's no doubt that many of the fish deaths and unidentified problems that people have in their tanks are the result of internal worms or parasites that don't manifest any visible symptoms; taking the precaution of treating with anti-parasitic foods (assuming your fish are all eating) and always deworming new fish could mean you'll see a lot fewer problems in your tanks in the long run.

Copyright 2003, Aqua Den. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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