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Old 03/09/2014, 06:27 AM   #1
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Basic Facts on Cryptocaryon Irritans (Marine Ich)

So what about Marine Ich (Cyrptocaryon irritans)?

The life cycle of this parasite is interesting and is important to understand when evaluating a treatment because different treatments work on various aspects of this life cycle. The stage in which the parasite is attached to a fish is called a trophont. While it looks like a grain of salt sprinkled on the skin, it is actually under the skin, making it unaccessible to cleaning animals such as cleaner wrasses, gobies, and shrimp. The trophont will spend three to seven days (depending on temperature) feeding on the fish and that is what you see symptomatically when you see "salt sprinkled on the fish".

After that, the trophont leaves the fish and becomes a protomont. This protomont travels to the substrate and begins to crawl around for usually two to eight hours, but sometimes as long as eighteen hours after it leaves its fish host.

Once the protomont attaches to a surface, it begins to encyst and becomes a tomont. Division inside the cyst into hundreds of daughter parasites, called tomites, begins shortly thereafter. This noninfectious stage typically lasts anywhere from three to twenty-eight days, however, the longest recorded period is 72 days. During this extended period, the parasite cyst is lying in wait for a host.

After this period, the tomites hatch and begin looking for a fish host. At this point, they are called theronts, and they must find a host within twenty-four hours or die. This is the most vulnerable stage of the life cycle. Theronts prefer to attach to skin and gill tissue, then transform into trophonts, and begin the process all over again.

Thus, when your tank is infected, you can actually see symptoms during a very small part of the life cycle, or, possibly, not at all. Also, this is why the symptoms seem to come and go.

Many hobbyists are fooled into believing they have cured their fish of the parasites when visible symptoms disappear, only to find marine ich present again on fish a few weeks later. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security. The parasites may be in a stage where they are merely regrouping and multiplying for their "next offensive." In the wild, this sort of massive reproductive phase ensures that a few will find a suitable host to continue on the cycle. In the close confines of our aquariums, though, it means comparatively massive infection rates and exponentially increasing infection.

This parasite is usually associated with several environmental triggers. Changes in water temperature, exposure to high levels of ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate, low pH levels, the low dissolved oxygen often associated with overcrowding, are all factors contributing to the onset of the disease. You could lump all of these in a general category of "stress", but it is more appropriate to think of all of these as "unnatural conditions". In fact, Cryptocaryon irritans is rare in the wild, and is even more unlikely to be lethal. Marine ich is truly a disease that exploits the conditions of captivity to reproduce and easily find suitable hosts. Note that stress does not cause marine ich, marine ich causes marine ich.

Treatments That Work and Myths and Truths About Marine Ich

Treatments that work:

1. Hyposalinity - Using a refractometer, hold the salinity at 11 ppt to 12 ppt until 4 weeks after the last spot is seen. If you measure by specific gravity, that equates to roughly 1.008 to 1.009 SG. Raise the salinity slowly and observe the fish for 4 more weeks. To maintain the pH, add buffer, as along the with lowered salinity the alkalinity will also be lowered, which effects pH. Salinity needs to be checked and adjusted daily with a calibrated refractometer, salinity meter, or lab grade hydrometer.

2. Copper treatment - Follow medication recommendations. Copper can be effective in 2 to 4 weeks of treatment. After treatment, remove all copper and observe fish for 4 more weeks. Copper is a poison to the fish and creates some stress, with a fine line between therapeutic dosage and harmful to the fish. Also, copper drops out of solution quickly in hard alkaline water and in the presence of calcareous substrates. In order to maintain the proper level of copper, test copper nightly, using a test produced by the same manufacturer that supplies the copper treatment. Do not use ammonia neutralizers with copper.

3.. Transfer method – The fish is moved from tank to tank to separate the fish from the cysts that fall off and the free-swimming stages of the parasite. Two hospital tanks are needed to perform this treatment, disinfecting the tanks between each use. This is the preferred method of prophylactic treatment for marine ich. Note, however, that it will not be effective with certain other parasites. A separate treatment protocol for tank transfer is included below.

These are the ONLY known cures that work almost 100% of the time. Other chemicals will kill the Cryptocaryon irritans parasite, but only in special conditions that are not good for the fish. Some chemicals will only kill some of the organisms, letting the others escape death to go on to multiply and infect. Garlic has no effect on ich.

Observations, Claims, and Common Myths:

1. Some tangs seem more susceptible. This is true. Their mucous coatings are reduced in thickness and composition compared to many other fish.

2. Cryptocaryon irritans goes away on its own. This is definitely NOT true. Although Cryptocaryon irritans is only be visible at one stage of its life cycle, if it was once seen, then it hasn't gone away -- it's just not visible to the aquarist. Reread the life cycle described above.

3. It goes away with a ‘reef-safe’ remedy. This is not true; we all wish it was. This is one of the biggest and most dangerous misrepresentation in the hobby. The aquarist thinks everything is okay when it isn't. What usually has happened is that the parasite has killed the fish it is able to kill and the rest have developed a resistance or immunity. The parasite is still in the aquarium, possibly infecting the gills of the fish where it can’t be seen. About 40% of fish seem able to develop this immunity. Even if immune, the fish can carry the parasite.

4. It was gone, then when a new fish is added, it is there again. This is not true. See 3 above. Cryptocaryon irritans wasn’t really gone or the new fish brought in the disease with it. A new addition to an aquarium can be the stress that causes lowered immune responses in the other fish. This will allow the parasite to 'bloom' to the point where the infection is now again visible to the aquarist.

5. The fish lived through the last outbreak then died during the second or subsequent outbreak. This can be true. The fish had a resistance or immunity that it lost. Immunity seems to last only about six months.

6. It was accurately diagnosed as Cryptocaryon irritans, then never showed up again. It wasn’t ich or the fish quickly developed an immediate immunity or resistance, or the fish is still infected in the gills.

7. Cryptocaryon irritans can ‘hang around’ almost unnoticed with just a body spot now and then because it often resides just in the gills. This is true.

8. Aquariums always have Cryptocaryon irritans. This is untrue. Cryptocaryon irritans can be kept out of an aquarium. Just quarantine all fish, rock, sand, sponges, anything wet, and filter medium and don’t let non-quarantined livestock get into the aquarium.

9. Fish always have Cryptocaryon irritans. Untrue. In the wild, fish often show up to a 30% infection rate (or more) but the wild fish survive minor infections. In the tank the parasite can 'bloom' since because in the tank the fish can't get away. The combination of bloom and no escape will overcome the fish. In capture and transportation the fish can share the disease and thus many wild caught marine aquarium fishes do have this parasite, but not all.

10. A fish can't be made to be totally rid of Cryptocaryon irritans. Untrue. All marine fish can be cured and rid of any Cryptocaryon irritans infection.

11. Just feed the fish well and/or feed it garlic and it will be okay. Not true. Nutrition, foods, vitamins, etc. don't cure an infected fish. An infected fish is sick and is being tortured by the itching and discomfort. It might pull through and acquire resistance or immunity (see above) but the fish is being stressed by having to contend with a parasite. Don't let this happen to the fish. Cure it!! That is not to say that good nutrition is not important; quite the contrary.

12. A new cure has been discovered. Very unlikely. If the aquarist thinks they have found a new cure, then have it researched and independently tested. It's easy and cheap. If it is as good as the above 3 tried and true methods then the professional veterinarians, private and public aquariums, fish farms, and I will use it. The aquarist needs to keep the perspective of how devastating this parasite is not to just the hobby but to the whole fish farming industry. Any new way of 100% treatment will make headlines!

13. Cryptocaryon irritans can't always be detected, so don't bother with quarantine. In the confines of a small quarantine tank over 6 weeks, the Cryptocaryon irritans parasite will make itself known because the fish is weakened and can't get away from being re-infected by the multiplying parasites. In other words, the quarantine procedure instigates a 'bloom' of the parasite which will make it visible to the aquarist. When this happens, treatment is appropriate with one of the three proven treatments.

14. All white nodules fall off the fish and move on to the cyst stage. Untrue. It has been discovered that, on very rare occasions (we don't know why) the white nodule will encyst and rupture while still on the fish.

15. UV and/or Ozone kills Cryptocaryon irritans. Ozone doesn't kill all parasites that pass through the unit, nor does the water treated with ozone kill the parasites. UV only kills the parasites that pass through the unit in the vulnerable tomite stage. Since the entire water volume does not pass through the unit, not all ich parasites will pass through the unit, so the UV will not rid an aquarium of Cryptocaryon irritans. A UV can help prevent a 'bloom' of the parasites however, and thus help in its control. UV is not a cure nor a preventative measure for Cryptocaryon irritans. When water is shared by multiple tanks, usage of UV can make spreading this parasite from tank to tank significantly less likely.

16. All spots are Cryptocaryon irritans. Untrue. Probably one of the most problematic causes for rumors and “myth-information” in the hobby is assuming that a spot is Cryptocaryon irritans when it may be another parasites or conditions (e.g., pimple-like reaction to infection) that look like Cryptocaryon irritans. The mis-diagnosis is often the cause for claims of what cured Cryptocaryon irritans, when the fish didn't have Cryptocaryon irritans to start with.

17. My LFS quarantines their fishes for 2 weeks and I only buy them to be sure they are healthy and free of Cryptocaryon irritans. Have you been reading the above? First, 2 weeks is not long enough. Secondly most LFS share water among their fish system tanks so if any new arrivals happened, the clock is effectively reset back to zero. And remember, the parasite may not present itself visibly.

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Old 07/04/2014, 04:38 PM   #2
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Basic Facts on Cryptocaryon Irritans (Marine Ich)

Parasite infection via tank proximity

"Infective dinospores can be transported in aerosolized water droplets (Roberts-Thompson et al 2006). Droplets from static systems were shown to be transmissible for up to 1.44 feet however droplets from dynamic ones were shown to be transmissible up to 9.8 feet. This means that adjacent aquaria, (and potentially ponds), could spread the infection of parasites such as cryptocaryon irritans, amlyloodinium, etc. to other aquaria nearby. As such that aquaria that are situated close together should be covered especially if one is known to have or have had a parasite." These references were originally from Fish Disease: Diagnosis and Treatment By Edward J. Noga but after additional use of Google Scholar, there were other examples. So bottom line is respect aerosol transmission of parasites between proximate aquaria.

Warmest regards,

Last edited by billsreef; 07/04/2014 at 04:57 PM.
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