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Old 12/27/2009, 07:19 PM   #1
solos2
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Parasitic blood-sucking worm on purple firefish

Hi there,

I've just discovered that I've got some parasitic worm on my purple firefish a few days ago, I've taken photos and trying to find a way to cure it. As you can see from the photos, it's sucking blood out of the fish and it's located behind the fins and near the gills.

I've been doing some research on the web and so far the only remedy to this parasite is to manually remove the parasite with a pair of tweezers.

It's close to impossible to get the fish out of my reef tank since they're too agile, I'm wondering if there's any way to get rid of the parasite besides manual removal of the parasite. Apparently any copper-based medicine can't be used in my tank either since I've invertebrates in there.

I've three cleaner shrimps and a six line wrasse in the tank as well, but they're not able to help the poor firefish.





Any help would be greatly appreciated.

p.s. The photos were taken 3 days ago, when I check my fish last night, I noticed the egg sac (curly string) has grown significantly, and the eggs are quote noticeable now, I think they're maturing and am I running out of time?


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Old 12/27/2009, 10:17 PM   #2
Fretfreak13
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Can't help much here, but if you're thinking you're running out of time and you found that you should manually remove it, I would just suck it up and do it. It would freak me out to rip my beloved pet out of his watery home and then pit his flopping body to a table while I ripped something off of him, but if it was to help the fish, just do it before it's too late. Have you added anything recently, like LR or new corals? If not, then that thing has been in your tank for awhile and could have already reproduced. YOu might have en epedemic on your hands. =(


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Old 12/27/2009, 11:11 PM   #3
solos2
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According to the FAQ I've read from Wet Web Media, this type of parasite is a copepod and it only affect certain species, (in this case, firefish). I've another red firefish in my tank so I'm a bit worried, however the FAQ also pointed out that the parasitic copepod "likely has a "complex" life cycle... requiring the presence of at least another intermediary organism (which is highly likely not present)"

http://www.wetwebmedia.com/drtfshdisfaqs.htm

Another source where I've read, it indicates that this parasite will eventually "suck" the host dry, from blood to body tissue to organ tissue, until the host can't sustain on what's left on the body, then the copepod will burrow into the substrate and lay some 200 eggs.

Yet another source says any successful parasite will not kill its host but to use it for as long as it could as a living "food bank".

The only way it seems that I could help my fish is to try and gingerly operate on the fish, as indicated by WWM, while inside the net under water, with a pair of tweezers.

But as it is, there's no way I could get the fish out without tearing down my entire reef, so at this point I feel pretty much helpless, keeping my fingers crossed and hope that my cleaner shrimps / six line wrasse will somehow grow a taste on that parasite.

I'd appreciate anyone who have experience dealing with this type of parasitic copepod before post your experience here and help rescue my little friend.


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Old 12/28/2009, 01:11 AM   #4
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Hi Solos -- Sorry to hear about the parasite. The information you posted above is contradictory because the sources were talking about different types of parasites. I found a paper which describes a type of internal copepod parasite called Serpentisaccus magnificae which lives on the orange fire fish Nemateleotris magnificae. What you have appears to be the same or a similar parasite. The genus name of the parasite - Serpentisaccus - describes the 2 long curly egg sacs. The rest of the body is deeply embedded in the fish's body. Even if you pull off the egg strings, unless the parasite is so damaged that it dies it will just grow new egg sacs. This type of parasite usually doesn't kill the fish and if the fish is healthy it should be able to tolerate the parasite. The life cycle of this parasite isn't known. Similar copepods go through up to 11 developmental stages starting with planktonic forms before they become the final adult form. Some species require an intermediate host like a snail but others don't; once they stop being planktonic they find a host fish to live on. Without knowing the life cycle it's impossible to predict if the eggs can survive long enough to become additional parasites. Hopefully they will be eaten or removed through your tank's filtration. these parasites tend to be very specific about which fish they live on so it's unlikely that they would attach to any other fish in your tank.

The paper only describes the copepod; it has no information on life history or another else but it does have a drawing on an entire parasite. If you'd like to see it send me a PM with your email.

Good luck. Here's hoping the cleaners will help.


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Old 12/28/2009, 02:15 AM   #5
solos2
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Hi Leslie,

Thanks for your post, it really helps!

From my observation I think the parasite you described "Serpentisaccus magnificae" match quite closely with the one I found on my purple firefish.

I've tried to google "Serpentisaccus decora" (for purple firefish Nemateleotris decora) but that didn't yield any results

Base on the experience from another purple firefish owner, who also had the same parasite on his firefish (please refer to the link below), he removed the "egg sac" with a pair of tweezers just to find the egg sac reappear some 2 weeks later, and his fish died later due to stress from the operation:
http://forum.marinedepot.com/Topic10....aspx?Update=1

If the parasite is deeply embedded in the fish's body I don't think it's going to do any good by manually removing the egg sac, as it'll stress out the fish as well. And like I've mentioned previously, I can actually see the eggs maturing, eventually they'll hatch and will probably be food for my corals.

I'll be watching over this little fella and hope he'll do well, so far he's pretty healthy, flipping his bright colored fins and eating brine shrimps / nori as usual.

Thanks.


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Old 12/28/2009, 10:25 AM   #6
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I couldn't find any mention of a different Serpentisaccus species for N. decora either. Maybe S. magnificae lives on both species or the parasite on N. decora hasn't been seen or described yet by scientists. On the marinedepot post you mentioned that you thought the fish had brought the "egg" with it. I'm also sure it had the parasite living in it when you purchased it.

Keep the fish well fed. The parasite is a drain on the fish's metabolism even though it won't directly kill its host. A half starved fish is more likely to catch a disease or succumb to bacterial infection. A good supply of food will help keep the fish healthier.

Cheers, Leslie


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Old 12/28/2009, 06:43 PM   #7
solos2
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Thanks again Leslie, I'll keep the little fella well fed and keep an eye on him/her


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Old 01/02/2013, 08:48 PM   #8
Broncos
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I tried to pull it out and it INSTANTLY killed my fish in a spray of blood. The head is large and appears to be attached near the fishes heart.

i'm a hard hearted sob and i felt pretty sad watching that cute little fish die.


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