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Flavobacteria Infection In Fish – Causes, Symptoms, Treatments And Prevention

Bacterial gill disease, flavobacteria infection, in fish is one of the leading diseases young ‘Salmonids’ get in hatchery.

Although not yet recognized as a problem in the wild fish populations, it can attack any type of fish in an aquarium.

There is nothing ‘flavorful’ about flavobacteria or any other bacterial gill disease if you have a pet fish. Flavobacteria including other gill infecting bacteria like Aeromonas and Pseudomonas spp. are often found to be opportunistic infections.

Young, old and weak fish with fragile immune system are more likely to catch gill disease at first. However if healthier fish are included along with the infected ones, they are prone as well.

Once there is a bacterial infection in your fish tank, if treatment is not promptly rendered and the living conditions aren’t improved, all your fish will die.

In this article, we are going to talk about the causes, symptoms, possible treatments and understand why prevention is the best cure to any fish problems, including bacterial gill disease.

Let us get started with the possible causes of this infection.

The causes of bacterial gill disease:

It has been widely noted that this disease typically occurs in predisposing factors relating to poor living conditions. Some factors relating to poor living conditions are:

  • Increased ammonia levels.
  • Reduced dissolved oxygen levels.
  • Increased organic matter in water.
  • Overstocking (overcrowding) of the tank.

If water is not changed frequently in an aquarium, the existing water becomes dirty very quick. Higher level of organic debris like fish food and excreta doesn’t take long to accumulate in the tank.

Accumulation of organic debris leads to poor water quality, rise in ammonia levels, which in turn paves the way to more bacteria in the tank and if not kept in check quickly enough, bacterial gill disease soon follows.

Poor water quality leads to all kinds of problems in an aquarium. Fish totally depend on water and without clean water they will eventually expire.

Overcrowding is another main reason why fish get bacterial gill disease in captivity. All fish in the tank/pond are competing for the dissolved oxygen level in water. If there is not enough oxygen to go around, fish will be unhealthy and infections will soon follow.

Another factor is the water temperature. Higher temperature gives rise to parasitic and bacterial infection fairly quick.

Symptoms of bacterial infection in gills:

Fish are going to suffer from respiratory problems as this is a gill infection. Here are the tell-tale signs of bacterial infection in gills:

  • Since they won’t be able to breathe properly, you would see labored breathing in them, like they are gasping for air.
  • You would see them swimming close to the surface of the water and into the incoming fresh water from filters in order to get more oxygen.
  • Gills may become red and swollen because of the bacterial growth. Deformity, adhesions of gill tissues and blotchy appearance may clearly be noticeable.
  • Fish show signs of appetite loss; eating negligible amount of food or no food at all.
  • Less eating means less energy so you can see fish getting lethargic.

If you see any of these symptoms but don’t act quickly, the gills and fin tissues will deteriorate and you will eventually lose your precious fish. So now let’s look at the possible treatments that can be done if there is a bacterial infection.

The possible treatments for bacterial infection:

Potassium permanganate and other salt additives (including common salt) are often used to heal the infected areas of the fish. Salt bath stimulates the fish’s body to produce more slime. This helps to repel the harmful bacteria and kill parasites.

Salt water bath are also done for the newly bought fish so that the parasites and diseases won’t be introduced into your existing tank ecosystem.

Salt water bath or dip is only done to freshwater fish and alternatively fresh water dip or bath is only done for saltwater fish. The idea behind this is pretty simple – the saltwater bacteria and parasites can’t survive in freshwater and freshwater parasites and bacteria can’t survive in saltwater. However, all this should be done without hurting the fish.

Although salt bath/dip can be an effective remedy, too much salt can be dangerous to fish. Salt should be mixed with water and fish should not be kept in salt water for too long. Amount of salt additives to be used on treatment can vary depending on the level of infection, species of fish, amount of water and the kind of salt you use.

If you are new to salt water bath and don’t really know what you are doing, it might be best to get help from a professional fish doctor (vet). I am going to write about salt water bath and fresh water bath in a great detail and post a link here so stay tuned.

A lot of times if the primary infections go unnoticed or not treated quickly enough the secondary bacterial problems will follow, which may require Antibiotic therapy from the vet.

Along with the treatments, maintaining the following is also necessary to totally eradicate the infection forever:

  • It is crucial to maintain a healthy, clean environment for fish. Water needs to be changed on a regular basis depending on how many fish you have and how big the tank is.
  • The tank should be spacious. If you think you have an overcrowded aquarium, get a larger one that has ample space for the fish to swim. Alternatively, you can also buy multiple small tanks and transfer some fish in each of them. Crowding an aquarium is definitely not a good idea because this is going to stress the fish making it easy for infections to go around.
  • Sanitation is crucial for long term solution to any bacterial infection. Gravels, decorations and other aquarium furniture need to be sterilized thoroughly to eradicate the bacteria.
  • Quarantine the fish which are infected. Bacterial infections are generally contagious and can spread to other fish as well.

Prevention is the best cure!

We all know about prevention being better than cure. Keeping your pet fish stress free, happy and healthy means understanding that prevention is the best cure. Period!

lightbulbPrevention really starts from knowing and understanding your fish. Every breed of fish is different and the more you know about the specific breed, the better you can take care of them.

Prevention also involves using a routine in caring for your fish and their habitat. A routine really helps to maintain hygienic living conditions. Here are some other simple things you can follow to always prevent the bacterial gill disease from your fish tank:

  • Improve water quality by keeping water clean of organic debris and changing water frequently.
  • Frequently check for water pH levels and see if filters are working properly. Also check on aquarium bubblers and other aquarium furniture to see if they need cleaning.
  • Let the fish have plenty of space to swim around so avoid overstocking.
  • Maintain a consistent water temperature. Even a slight increase in temperature is known to lead to bacterial infection.

Is this article helpful? Do you have a story, remedy or anything else that you would like to share about bacterial infection in fish? Please leave a comment below.

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1 thought on “Flavobacteria Infection In Fish – Causes, Symptoms, Treatments And Prevention

  1. Really excellent post! I think a lot of people don’t understand that by not maintaining proper water temps and pH you are seriously damaging the health of your fish! That’s why I started working for Seachem, making the maintenance of aquariums easier is our mandate, as the easier we can make it for someone to keep fish the more likely we can grow the hobby together! Keep up the great posts.

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