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Scientific Name: Ichthyophthirius Multifiliis
Cause: Poor water quality, stress, or introducing a contagious tank mate
Visual Symptoms: Small white dots on the body, fins, or gills resembling sugar granules
Behavioral Symptoms: Rubbing against objects in the aquarium
Betta Fish Ich Treatment: Medicine and clean water
Outlook Treatable but can be fatal if left untreated
Ich or Ick is an uncomfortable disease and one of the most common among freshwater aquarium fish. Betta fish are also susceptible to ich, and ignoring treatment for too long can lead to death. Make sure you fully understand the diagnosis for Ich. Medicating a healthy fish can also have adverse consequences.
Because Ich is highly contagious and may be living in the water unnoticed, it is extremely important that you quarantine all new tank mates and betta fish being acclimated to community tanks. When purchasing a new betta, depending how well they were cared for, they may already have ich when you bring them home.
When a betta fish is stressed, or living in poorly heated or poor water conditions, they are more likely to contract ich. These are the most common reasons that the Ich parasite may prey on your betta. Ich is also common among aging betta fish.
The easiest way identify whether your betta fish has Ich or not is visually. Ich parasites look like small granules of salt or sugar speckled across their body, gills and finnage. The level of severity will depend on how many white spots the betta fish has. These white spots are different than ‘pimples’ which occasionally affect betta fish.
A betta fish that has Ich may act lethargic and refuse to eat in advanced or more severe cases. You may also notice them rubbing against aquarium decor to try and remove the Ich parasites from their body and fins. This can also lead to tears in fins or scale damage. Other common symptoms are clamped fins and laboured breathing.
Treating Ich is important because this disease can be fatal to betta fish. If you have or plan to have betta fish (or other tropical fish) for a long time, chances are you will have to treat this disease at one point or another.
The Ich protozoan reproduces rapidly without proper treatment and care. They have a 7 day life span and go through three distinct stages of life in tropical freshwater aquariums. It’s important to understand their life stages to effectively treat it.
Trophont Stage or Feeding Stage: The period of time when the parasite is attached to the betta, feeding and visible. The parasites are not susceptible to treatment during this stage.
Tomont Stage: The adult parasite releases from the betta, falls into the tank and attaches to gravel or other objects. In this stage they begin dividing through binary fission (up to 10 times) rapidly. This is the parasite’s reproductive stage.
Theront Stage: Ich parasites (invisible to the naked eye) are free swimming during this stage and are most susceptible to treatment. They have 48 hours to attach to a host or they will die. Treating and medicating your tank and betta during this phase is crucial to recovery.
1. Move the betta to a hospital tank if there are other tank mates.
2. Increase the temperature slowly in your tank to 81-86 degrees fahrenheit for up to 10 days. Ich parasites prefer colder water, with colder temperatures leading to prolonged life cycles and increased reproduction rates.
3. Warmer water holds less oxygen, so consider adding an airstone. Increased oxygen can boost a betta fish’s immune system.
4. Follow the directions and administer the recommended medicine for treating Ich: (Rid Ich Plus) which contains malachite green and formalin. It is strong and highly effective.
5. Perform daily water cycling of 25-50% to reduce high medication levels and remove Ich trophonts and tomites.
6. Continue medication according to the directions and do not stop early. Ich protozoan are only vulnerable to medication two days out of their seven day life span, so continue even if they appear to be gone.
Prevention and Care
Ich and other diseases have become stronger over time because of hobbyist’s reliance on medications and their adaptability. This is why most cases of Ich cannot be cured without medication today.
Preventing betta fish diseases like Ich is easier than treating it. Make sure you are properly caring for your betta fish and reducing environmental stressors. Ich can also come attached to living aquarium plants. Remember to quarantine all new living plants and tank mates.
The good news is bettas develop a small tolerance or immunity to Ich after having successfully overcome it. This means that it is unlikely a betta fish will become infected with Ich again in the future.