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Wasting Disease/Fish Tuberculosis


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Trigger warning: Severe fish illness and euthanization.

As some of you know, I euthanized my betta Romi after two months of agonizing hospice care. I'm still trying to work out what happened, to figure out how to move forward with the tank. Unfortunately, the only disease that seems to cover her huge wealth of symptoms appears to be wasting disease/fish tuberculosis. She became extremely and frighteningly thin, lost random patches of scales, had strange lesions, repeated and untreatable bacterial and fungal infections, extreme fin loss, etc., and no amount of medication (I tried everything the Co-op sells in multiple treatments) stopped the progression. Towards the end, she became essentially paralyzed, couldn't even lift her head off the gravel, and lay for two days gasping on the bottom. I kept telling myself, "She'll probably be gone next time I look..." only for two days to pass like that. I finally removed her unresponsive but still breathing body from the tank and crushed her outside. She didn't even try to flop around or seem distressed at being removed from the water. ūüėē

So my questions are:

Is fish tuberculosis something that actually happens in the hobby or is it one of those scary rumors and I'm thinking too much into this?

If it is wasting disease, what are the chances my other tank is infected, considering I got her at the same time as a couple of the schools in there and they quarantined together a year ago?

What protocol needs to be used on Romi's old tank to make it safe? I can only find one halfway useful article on this online and it basically says "throw everything away and bleach the entire tank". Is that accurate? So much was put into this tank, including a huge number of Crypt plants. And if my community tank is infected and the disease is lying dormant... I don't even know where I'd start with that should they start getting sick.

Am I overreacting? Is this even a possibility? Am I just really bad at treating sick fish?

I'd really like some outside perspective.

~Miranda

The tank and Romi before vs when she started getting really sick. I didn't have the heart to take a photo of her towards the end. She looked like a zombie fish.

 

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I'm sorry to hear about your long struggle with trying to save Romi. There's no way to know if any of us are just "bad at" taking care of sick fish because there are too many unknowns when it's not a clearly identifiable problem. You clearly loved Romi and did  your best to save her. 

I don't have an answer for you about wasting disease or fish tb. I've researched them as well due to a mystery illness that was starving and killing some of my guppies and I've felt like I was chasing my tail in circles trying to figure out what to do as nothing worked.

If the fish who quarantined with your betta are alive and well in other tanks and have been for a year, I myself would be questioning whether whatever killed Romi is contagious. 

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On 9/9/2023 at 3:23 PM, PineSong said:

I'm sorry to hear about your long struggle with trying to save Romi. There's no way to know if any of us are just "bad at" taking care of sick fish because there are too many unknowns when it's not a clearly identifiable problem. You clearly loved Romi and did  your best to save her. 

I don't have an answer for you about wasting disease or fish tb. I've researched them as well due to a mystery illness that was starving and killing some of my guppies and I've felt like I was chasing my tail in circles trying to figure out what to do as nothing worked.

If the fish who quarantined with your betta are alive and well in other tanks and have been for a year, I myself would be questioning whether whatever killed Romi is contagious. 

I'm really sorry you went through the same as well. It's hard to have no idea what you're doing wrong or what else to try.

So far, I haven't seen similar symptoms in the neon green rasboras or the ember tetras, but it seems like neither set is as susceptible to either option as bettas/livebearers/etc. So I don't know if they're okay because they're less likely to catch the options, or if this was just a problem specific to her.

I'm mostly struggling to determine what to do next. Do I nuke the tank she was in and start from scratch, or leave it running but wait a month or two for new fish? Do a deep clean and add more meds to kill off anything lurking in the water? If it was TB, it sounds like that wouldn't be enough, but I don't have any way to determine that for sure. I'm just nervous to get new fish and then repeat the last few months all over again.

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I dont really know how to treat existing tank…

I would however suggest obtaining clove oil for euthanizing fish…. Just dont use it in a container you want to keep like a clear plastic specimen container.  I use plastic food tubs when I need to euthanize a fish and throw the tub away after.  The clove oil sort of bonds to the plastic and it is not worth trying to clean…

I cant stand the idea of euthanizing a pet fish by inflicting head trauma….  I am not claiming it is cruel or inhumane, but I just cant do it….

 

Clove oil is gentle.  The fish flutters a bit before being anesthetized, but after that they succumb peacefully…. I then place them in a plastic baggie after all gill movement has ceased for 10 minutes and place them in the deep freezer to ensure they dont recover…

I so hate having to make the decision to euthanize.  I struggle with second guessing myself both ways..  maybe I should have tried something else,  maybe I should have done it sooner to spare the suffering…. 
 

It is never a pleasant task…

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On 9/9/2023 at 5:14 PM, Pepere said:

I dont really know how to treat existing tank…

I would however suggest obtaining clove oil for euthanizing fish…. Just dont use it in a container you want to keep like a clear plastic specimen container.  I use plastic food tubs when I need to euthanize a fish and throw the tub away after.  The clove oil sort of bonds to the plastic and it is not worth trying to clean…

I cant stand the idea of euthanizing a pet fish by inflicting head trauma….  I am not claiming it is cruel or inhumane, but I just cant do it….

 

Clove oil is gentle.  The fish flutters a bit before being anesthetized, but after that they succumb peacefully…. I then place them in a plastic baggie after all gill movement has ceased for 10 minutes and place them in the deep freezer to ensure they dont recover…

I so hate having to make the decision to euthanize.  I struggle with second guessing myself both ways..  maybe I should have tried something else,  maybe I should have done it sooner to spare the suffering…. 
 

It is never a pleasant task…

It was definitely very hard to decide. I feel like I should've done it sooner in the end, but she kept going through brief phases of bouncing back a little...and then plunging back into terrible again. I will look for some clove oil. I know that probably would've been easier on me, but I was more confident at the time in the swiftness of a quick blow. Especially after she had already been lying almost unresponsive on the tank's bottom for so long. Plus my sister had our car those last two days with her at jury duty, so I didn't have a way to get into town when she took that final worst turn.

I love this hobby a lot, but days like this are definitely sad. Romi was a very fiesty and fun fish and I'm glad I got to care for her for a while.

Edited by Miranda Marie
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