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sick cichlid swimming vertically near surface


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i have a tank with approx 10 mbuna cichlids, all have been thriving for about 6 weeks. I do water changes of 10-20% every 2 weeks.

3 of the cichlids are much larger than the others and territorial (3-4inch in size), the other 6 or so are small (1 inch) and younger.

One of my small black acei tanzanias has been struggling the past couple of days. He swims near the surface of the tank against the wall, almost vertically, as if gasping for the surface. Breathing is very exaggerated, & no interest in swimming.. but will swim away if i disturb him. Externally he looks fine and is not bloated.

What should i do?

Should I isolate him in a small plastic transport tank and drop a tiny amount of salt and metronidazole in??

Does his behaviour just mean he "is sick" or does it point to anything specific?

Edited by levels
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I'm guessing scared... are there many hiding places in the tank for the smaller ones? If it was oxygen (the gasping near surface is a possibility), its likely to have affected more than one fish over the last few days.

Also, what size is the tank?

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I'm guessing scared... are there many hiding places in the tank for the smaller ones? If it was oxygen (the gasping near surface is a possibility), its likely to have affected more than one fish over the last few days.

Also, what size is the tank?

its a big tank - i inherited it off my bro so i dont know how many L.. but it is roughly 4x3x2 foot. Plenty of hiding spots but maybe the territorial big ones are hogging the main spots

Another small cichlid has started behaving similarly - in fact he hides behind the filter pipe which is very strange.. a stupid hidnig spot if u ask me

I have noticed the other tanzanian (small one) harasses this one a fair bit .. so maybe is just looking for some peace and quiet

what i find strange is that they were all cohabiting so peacefully up until a day or two ago.. maybe they are maturing = male/female harassment??

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same thing happen to me with my litho bite he was swimming upside down? looked wierd thought he was gonna die , did a few water changes and it seems find now really dont know what i did to make him stop swimming in the wierd buM way maybe he was just sick for a little bit?, but from time to time my yellow and mpanga swim behind the heater and filter pipe

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new information-

he has 2 small (1mm diameter) white dots on his right hand side gill

i would think Ich however there are only 3 descrete spots on the fish .. the spots aren;'t all over

Edited by levels
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I have had similar instances myself. My fish would hide behind the filter or in one of the top corners of the tank.

I would think that you may not have enough hiding places for the fish to get away from the more aggressive males.

alternatively you can add more fish so that not one fish gets picked on constantly (the aggression is spread out among more fish) I have found this to be the best method as I hate looking at a fish tank that looks empty as all the fish hiding!

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his gill areas on both sides are now losing colour .. look whitish/grey

his respiratory rate is even higher now, he is really gasping for air the poor fella

i've tried numerous times to catch him with the net but he is too quick, he gets away, i cant catch him

he is now tucked under a plastic plant at the bottom of the tank, trying to move as little as possible

any ideas?

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Difficult to say for sure but given that you have observed some white spots there is the possibility of ich. It can sometimes infect the gills quite heavily before being visible on the body. If it were me i would begin a Protozin treatment. It is less harsh on fish & bacteria than the standard ich meds and therefore not such an issue if you have mis-diagnosed.

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