Many aquarists are confused about how to treat ich in their reef tank. If you have a reef tank, you must know how sensitive the corals and invertebrates are. If you want to take very drastic measures to control ich in your tank, you might end up harming them. So, how do you deal with ich without harming the other creatures of the tank? That’s what we are going to talk about in this article.
There are several ways to treat ich in the reef tank. Quarantining the fish and the aquarium, using copper, fitting Ultra Violet sterilization, trying garlic, keeping hyposalinity in the water are some of the effective ways you can try.
We are going to explain all of the ways in detail below. So, just keep reading if you want to get rid of the ich from your reef tank.
What Is Ich In A Reef Tank?
The word ‘ich’ in the aquatic world is a shorter form of the scientific name Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. Generally, many aquarists call ich as White spot. However, though White spot got its origin in the freshwater, we also experience it in the marine tanks.
There is a parasite named Cryptocaryon irritans that is the culprit for White spot in the reef tank. However, as both the Ichthyophthirius multifiliis and Cryptocaryon irritans have many symptoms in common, people are used to maintaining the previous freshwater name for the White spot. On top of that, they are using the term to denote the reef tank parasite.
If the fishes of your reef tank get affected by Cryptocaryon irritans, it can take a long time to get better. Even worse, if you use harsh chemicals to treat the disease, the invertebrates and the corals of the tank will be at risk.
You have to keep in mind that Cryptocaryon itself is categorized as an invertebrate. So, if any kind of medication is capable of killing the Cryptocaryon, that can be deadly to other invertebrates of the reef tank as well.
What Are The Symptoms Of Ich In The Saltwater Fishes?
Before knowing the symptoms of the Ich in the marine water, you should know that the capacity of the contracting the Ich parasite differs from species to species. Though all the fishes in the reef tank aquarium can contract it, the fact of the matter is that species like Surgeonfish are more susceptible. On the other hand, rays and sharks are not that susceptible.
Here are some of the common symptoms of Ich in the fishes:
- White spot on the fins, gills, and body.
- Cloudy eyes
- Ragged fins
- Pale gills
- Behavioral changes such as abnormal swimming, lethargy, quick breathing, rubbing the body against the objects of the tank, etc.
- Changes in the scale or skin color
- Mucus production
6 Effective Ways To Treat Ich In A Reef Tank
Manufacturers have researched for years to develop some effective remedies to treat the White spot issue in the tank. However, until now there are only a few effective solutions that are comparatively less harmful. To treat ich in a reef tank, a little bit of luck combined with some factors are important.
Let’s now discuss some of the approaches you can follow to treat ich in your saltwater tank.
Quarantine The Fishes/Tanks
Be it new fishes, new aquariums, or a new pond, quarantining is often the best solution to keep these protected from parasites and diseases.
There is a chance that the new fishes you have bought are carrying parasites and then everything else in the tank or pond gets affected.
You might not see parasites on the newly bought fishes as they might not be showing any symptoms at the early stage. On top of that, the cysts remain hidden at the beginning phase. You can not even see the parasites with naked eyes. It is because the White spot covers them.
You might be wondering about what causes the parasites. Well, like many diseases in humans and animals, Stress is the reason behind this disease.
To prevent Ich in the reef tank, the first thing you can do is to quarantine the new fishes in a separate tank. Observe those fishes for a few weeks to check if they are infected with any parasites or diseases.
If you find any diseases or parasites in them within this quarantine period, you can use any strong treatments without the fear of harming the coral. This step will kill the germs and parasites safely.
Copper is an effective anti-parasite. You can use copper in your reef tank water to get rid of Ich. However, note that you have to keep the copper dose low. If you apply too much copper, that might prove deadly.
To apply copper in the tank correctly, you’ll need to have a copper test kit. Make sure that the copper-based marine treatment you are applying is used properly and correctly. Here are some of the common advantages of copper treatment:
- Monitoring the copper level is easy.
- There are varieties in the medication strength and you can choose as per the infection status of your tank.
- Due to the steady application of the treatment, the concentration works steadily for about a month. As the treatment does not spike and then drops any condition immediately, the chance of medicational resistance by the Ich is fairly low.
The most important thing to remember while applying copper is that copper should be used only in quarantine tanks or fish only tanks, not directly on reef tanks. You should not apply copper in any tank that contains invertebrates or corals.
The usual copper treatment starts with 0.15 mg/liter which can be extended up to 0.24 mg/liter if required. This treatment might take effect in 2 to 4 weeks.
However, you must be careful when it comes to the extension of copper treatment for a longer period. Prolonged exposure to this treatment increases the stress in the fishes and might prove ineffective against the parasite and harmful to the fishes.
Many retailers apply copper in the fish systems intending to keep the parasites at bay. When you buy any new fishes for the reef tank, ask the seller whether the water associated with the fishes comes with copper. If it comes, you should refrain from pouring the water straight to your reef tank.
Ultra Violet (UV) Sterilization Process
When the White spot parasites are in the free-swimming stage, UV sterilization is an effective solution you can try. UV helps to discourage or stop the transmission of the parasites if you set one to the reef tank.
Remember, UV is not effective for fishes that are already affected by the parasite. It only fights against those parasites that are in the water within the pumping range of the UV unit.
To get the best of the UV setup, you have to pump water slowly. Though you might get UV with a higher flow rate with low energy consumption, a UV pumping of 150 liters per hour is good to start with for any 55-watt tube.
Setting a UV is a good option for fish species that are vulnerable to the White spot parasite.
Running a saltwater tank at a lower salinity than the usual salinity level of the seawater is hyposalinity. Like copper treatment, you should try in only on quarantined tanks or fish-only tanks. Applying this method in the reef tank will be detrimental to the corals and other vertebrates.
If you drop the salinity level from 1.025 to 1.020, it will be hard for the parasites to survive in this condition. However, this small drop in the salinity level will not be deadly for the fishes as they can adapt to it.
Hyposalinity is ideal to be used in the fish systems along with copper treatment and UV process.
Go for Reef Safe Treatments
If the fishes in your established tank are severely affected by the White spot or Ich, you should start reef-safe treatments available out there. Super Ick Cure, Cupramine, Rid-Ich+ are some of the common names. Among them Seachem Cupramine is my favorite.
Follow the instructions of the manufacturers when it comes to dosage. If there is excess carbon in the water, the treatment might not be fruitful as expected. So, make sure that you have cleaned excess carbon out of the water.
Another thing to do while you are using a commercial treatment package is that you might need to turn the UVs off. Light can break down the treatments and degrade them.
Feed your fishes with foods that contain garlic. Wait for a few days or a week to see if there are any positive changes or improvements.
As an immunostimulant, garlic can also help you to fight against parasites and related infections. Garlic has a strong-antibacterial force. It is added to many commercial marine products such as dry foods, supplements, and frozen foods.
Important Things To Remember While Treating Ich In A Reef Tank
- As Ich parasites are generally caused by the stress in the fishes, try to find the issues that are causing stress in the fishes. Fixing those issues properly is the best prevention of all time.
- There are many misconceptions about the treatment of Ich in a reef tank. Many aquarists believe that increasing temperature helps, which does not. Another popular myth to treat the Ich in the reef tank is introducing the cleaner fishes or shrimps. However, cleaner shrimps of fishes are unable to remove the Ich from the skin of the infected fishes.
- Check and maintain the nutrition, water temperature, water quality, amount of carbon properly. Temperature fluctuation is often a culprit for the rise of Ich in the reef tank water.
- If most of the fishes in your reef tank is infected with the parasite, the best idea is to quarantine all the fishes in a separate tank for a few weeks and treat them with copper. Make sure that the tank is free from any invertebrates.
- A parasite or Ich is capable enough to survive for weeks even without any host. So, keep the fishes separate in the quarantine tanks for a few weeks, the longer the better. Besides, keep the reef tank free from fishes to bring the natural order back without parasites.
- Apart from using reef-safe treatments for the infected fishes, you can also use garlic products like Garlic Xtreme, stress reducers, and immuno-boosters to keep the fishes in good health.
So, by now you know pretty much about Ich and how to treat Ich in a reef tank. While you adopt any of the measures mentioned above, make sure that you do not overdo anything. The wrong dosage of copper or any other treatment can leave your tank empty. So, it is better to be careful earlier if you do not want to regret later on.
We always suggest you start with mild treatments like the use of garlic, UV, low light, maintaining the nutrition balance in the water, and other safer alternatives.