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Denison Barb with curved spine


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I have a tank with 6 denison barbs. For maybe the last month, 1 has been hiding behind in the hardscape. I saw it maybe 2 weeks ago and it was slighty pale, and swam with a little funny wiggle. I never see it coming out to eat.  Well I did some tank maintenance this weekend and saw it again; it looked much worse. It's much paler than the other barbs and swims with an "S" curve. I've had these barbs for 6 months and it's the only one doing that. I'm new to fish diseases. Is this something that can be treated, or is it just going to get progressively worse? I was able to take pics with it next to healthy barbs.

Parameters are. pH= 7.5-6.6 (depending on time of day with CO2 injection), ammonia= 0, nitrate= 0, nitrite= 50, temp= 78.



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In my experience with similar species, curved spines are usually a hereditary trait rather then things such as clamped fins or things of that regard which can result from illness.  That being said, it might not hurt to run meds through it and see if it improves. The reason I say this is because the way I read your post it sounded as though you’ve noticed the onset of this rather suddenly which is intriguing. Every fish I’ve encountered with a bent spine was born that way or it occurred naturally after pregnancies. Noticing it over the course of a few weeks suggests to me that there is a slim chance something could be causing it which the med trio would address in most cases if illness were the cause. To answer your second question as to is it going to get progressively worse it’s hard to say. I’ve read mixed reviews on is it painful or not, as well as issues caused by it, I think it’s a case by case situation. I’ve had many species of fish I’ve seen this trait develop in, some didn’t make it, some it didn’t seem to effect adversely in any way shape or form. I would continue to monitor it it may help determine the best course of action. I hope this helped in any way even if it’s not a concrete yes or no answer. 

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On 8/23/2022 at 6:37 AM, Colu said:

High levels of of nitrate can also cause curvature of the spine also with having nitrite at 50 ppm I would do daily 50 water changes to get your nitrite to zero and add a prime to help detoxify any nitrites 

Oops, I'm sorry. I meant 50 ppm nitrate and 0 ppm nitrite.

Next time I take my tank apart I'll attempt to catch the barb and quarantine it. Unfortunately last time I tried to catch a barb, I nearly destroyed my tank and didn't actually catch anyone. 

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  • 3 months later...

The saga of "Bendy Barb" has ended and I want to leave a record here just in case anybody else wants to do a deep dive in the archives.

I netted out the fish shortly after my post and placed it in a hospital tank. I figured one of two things could be wrong. First, it could be a spine injury, in which case I can't do anything for the fish. Second, it could be some kind of disease, which I could try to treat. (Swim bladder issues, fishy tb, who knows??) So I tried the following:

I started with the hospital tank set at 80 F with salt and maracyn. After finishing the antibiotic treatment I did not observe any changes. Barb just stayed in the PVC pipes all day, which she used for buoyancy control.

I kept her in the hospital tank with salt and heat turned up and looked for other options. A post on the fish vet facebook group got one response. First, the vet mentioned that vitamin C deficiency could case the S shape. (Fish scurvy?) I check the food I was using and it was embarrassingly old, so I bought new high quality pellets with vitamin c on the ingredient list. I counted out a few every night and threw them in the tank. They were gone the next morning so I knew Barb was eating. After 4 weeks I still had not seen any changes.

The other thing the facebook vet mentioned was to try a stronger antibiotic. He said that the over the counter stuff was not very strong, and he used a stronger broad spectrum one in some cases. Here is the catch; the antibiotic he uses is injected into muscle. Its application is usually in expensive koi with much larger muscles, so this would be very difficult on Barb. Reconstituting the tiny dose may also create issues. Either way, the vet said the treatment only works half the time.

At this point barb had little control of her movements. She jerked around frantically a few times per day and hid in her PVC tubes the rest of the time. It was either treat or euthanize. I decided to order the medication and perform the injection. She did survive the initial injection, but was dead the next morning.

I really really really wanted to x-ray her spine after she passed, but the remains had already been disposed of before I had the chance. Which is a shame, it would have confirmed my hypothesis that this was a spine injury of some sort.

So that's the story of Barb. She lived in a huge tank in my office lobby and the whole team was rooting for her. Her fishy friends miss her too.


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When I bred guppies for a few years, a few would always come out looking a little funny. One had a curved spine very similar to your Barbs and I would just say it was scoliosis. Or TB. In my experience there’s nothing you can do to fix it. Especially if it was born like that.  It just seemed to shorten their life span and make it a little harder to swim. to help prevent it though if it develops over time is to just make sure your waters clean. 

Edited by Hally M.
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