Monday, August 24, 2009

How do you treat Koi ulcers?

I prepared the following for a friend recently. The dealer and suburb names relate to Johannesburg South Africa.

This is the list of things I have stocked up on / treatments / methodology:

  1. Oil of Cloves - anaesthetic

    1. Guide and dosage

    2. it has a long shelf life

    3. Make sure you get dosage right – based on the bucket you use

  2. Very clean (new) plastic container for dips / anaesthetic

    1. I have about three of those massive (100l) ones from Pick ‘n Pay

    2. If you use an old one, make sure it has no chance of soap or other residues

    3. You can actually keep a moderately sized fish (30cm or less) in a 100l one with an air stone and water changes through a treatment period of a week or more (must have daily 10% water changes though)

      1. This also substantially reduces the cost of medication (actually quite expensive) as you only dose according to the size of the container

      2. It allows you to accurately size the container and the doses

      3. It also allows you to nuke the pond with Pottassium Permanganate while the fish is in the container for a week

  3. Salt

    1. Guide and dosage

    2. Anti-parasite

    3. Tonic – reduces the load on a sick fish’s organs

    4. Have about 3 bags on standby.

    5. Have an empty bag so you can put a partial bag in the pond with a tied top until the salt dissolves, then you just pull the bag out

    6. Available from pool shops (such as Pool ‘n Pond in Rosebank, also Sandton Aquatics in Fourways)

  4. A salt meter

    1. Good but quite expensive – my digital one cost about R800

    2. I got mine from Happy Koi – I have not seen them too often

  5. A sock net

    1. One of the best things I ever bought

    2. Bought from Happy Koi

    3. Very soft – will not damage the fish

    4. Is basically a tube – you hold the handle and then end of the tube. To release the fish, merely release the end of the tube

  6. A large koi net – about 80cm across

    1. To guide the fish into the sock net

    2. Available from almost any Koi shop

  7. Acriflavine – the wonder drug

    1. Guide and dosage

    2. Mostly bottled by Loolilocks on the East Rand (even other dealers sell Loolilocks Acriflavine)

    3. Safe antifungal, anti-parasite and antibiotic

    4. Very good for ulcers

    5. Quite expensive

    6. Difficult to get rid of the colour – only goes after partial water changes

  8. Methylene Blue – the safe backup

    1. Anti-bacterial, anti-fungal

    2. Promotes oxygen in the water

    3. Easy to get – chemists or good koi shops

    4. Don’t get ripped off – very much cheaper in chemists

    5. Difficult to get rid of the colour – only goes after partial water changes

  9. Potassium permanganate - the nuclear option

    1. Guide and dosage

    2. Part 2 – detailed guide

    3. The most effective antibiotic / anti viral / anti-parasite

    4. Easy to get – chemists or good koi shops

    5. Don’t get ripped off – very much cheaper in chemists

    6. Difficult to get dosage precisely right

    7. Overdosing burns gill tissue and therefore the damage is either fatal or permanent

    8. Dosage can be reversed by addition of Hydrogen Peroxide

    9. Sunlight neutralises it over time

  10. Hydrogen Peroxide

    1. Powerful reagent

    2. Turns purple pond crystal clear

    3. Crucial to have to reverse over dosage of potassium permanganate

    4. Easy to get – chemists or good koi shops

    5. Don’t get ripped off – very much cheaper in chemists

  11. Anti-biotic injection

    1. A guide for injection of Baytril – one of the most common antibiotics for koi

    2. More on injecting

    3. Illegal outside vet’s hands

    4. Crucial for severe ulcers

    5. Gets easier to administer when you know how to anaesthetise the fish and where to inject

    6. Easiest spot is into the spot immediately behind the dorsal fin

    7. Second choice is under a scale and into the tail muscle

    8. Avoid belly and organs at all costs

    9. Limited shelf life

    10. Difficult to get

  12. Mercurochrome – surface disinfectant

    1. Easy to get

    2. Difficult to administer – slides off the fish and onto you!

  13. Plastic spray bottle for mercurochrome

  14. Wound gel

    1. Powder for putting onto wound.

    2. Forms gel to keep water off wound

    3. Difficult to get (happy koi, Joshua Koi)

    4. Not foolproof – lasts just over a day in my experience

There are other medications I have not used due to toxicity and the things they specifically target (usually parasites) – notably formalin and Malachite Green.

Tricide Neo is the wonder drug for ulcers in the USA. I’ve tried to get local dealers to import it. See here.

Almost all medications are a form of chemotherapy – you’re only killing the fish slight less than the bugs. So the crucial thing is how far to take it.

  1. Turn off UV lamps – they kill the medication

  2. People say bypass the bio filter – I think this leaves a source of good and bad bacteria. So I leave it active and then reseed the biofilter with good bacteria afterward. This means at least 4 weeks of suboptimal water quality while good bacteria re-establish

  3. Treat the water with first dose of medication, e.g. potassium permanganate

  4. Prepare separate container for anaesthetic – water and correct dosage of clove oil. I have a syringe of oil on standby to add if the fish is taking too long to knock out

  5. Create small highly concentrated solution of potassium permanganate and water

  6. Catch the fish, being very careful of pectoral fins (they dislocate, tear or break very easily)

  7. Put into anaesthetic until the fish floats to the surface belly up

  8. Remove and put onto moist towel on grass – fish’s mouth should still be moving but body should be immobile

  9. Dip end of cotton bud in high concentrate PP solution and apply to rotting / dead skin on edge of ulcer

    1. Be careful – will burn away anything it touches including good flesh and skin

    2. Fish may even grunt / cry from pain during this – quite frightening

  10. Wash off with pond water

  11. Blot wound with toilet paper. Would must be dry for mercurochrome to adhere

  12. Spray wound close up with mercurochrome

  13. Blow or use hair dryer to dry wound and mercurochrome

  14. Sprinkle just enough wound gel over wound to absorb remaining moisture

  15. Spray area with pond water to turn remaining powder to gel

  16. Blow /use hair dryer to dry gel

  17. Inject correct dosage of antibiotic for size of fish

    1. Area behind dorsal fin is easiest and least risk of damage to scales – however, avoid bones

    2. Area into flesh in tail is good but needle must go under a scale and above the one underneath

  18. Return fish to pond / treatment tank

    1. Hold fish by head and tail and move backwards and forwards through water to get water through gills until the fish revives

  19. Watch time the fish has without oxygen during anaesthetic

  20. Requires repeat treatments of water, wound and injections (typically three to five water, three to five injections, sometimes every second day cleaning of wound – but only use the PP the first time

If all else fails – euthanasia.

The best site for far far more detail, including more on dosages (very very important). Watch out for American gallons! They’re busy reorganising so a few of the links don’t work:

The forums – excellent to read other’s problems, pictures and advice:

After having gone through the experience and listening to friends, I am now certain that some bitumen pond waterproofing actually slowly poisons or irritate koi. Water tests may be perfect, but due to the toxins, the fish stress and develop ulcers. When I fibre-glassed, my koi's health improved dramatically. I have had only one minor ulcer in the 3 years since.

Simpler and cheaper than fibre-glass is epoxy / rubberised coating over your existing pond. For example, although I have no experience with the following guys:

It would be crucial to ask a few questions about durability and toxicity.

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