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Help with Apistogrammoides pucallpaensis illness

Tristero

New Member
Messages
6
Hi everone.

I'd like a bit of advice about a sick male Apistogrammoides.

I had been raising a pair in a very heavily planted 120L aquarium with various rasbora, tetra, kuhli loaches and catfish. They had been growing both in size and in confidence over 7 weeks, feeding mostly on grindal worms though the male had started to eat bottom feeder pellets. One day I noticed that the male seemed to be breathing a bit more labored, despite other behaviour being unchanged. The next day he hid all day (which was unusual), the following day I spotted him up the back obviously in trouble, and then he must have died in the day or 2 following that.

I took this photo showing that he had a vivid crimson blush on his sides which didn't look normal for that species. Does anyone want to hazard a guess at what went wrong, or give advice about how you can support a fish that starts to go downhill?
 

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MacZ

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,119
Location
Germany
Mind filling out the template for disease cases?


Takes more information. And please post a picture of the whole tank.

What you describe is not unusual and often down to holding conditions, the questions are mainly to spot critical problems one might have overlooked.
 

Tristero

New Member
Messages
6
Which animal is affected? Species, sex, age? (If age unknown: How long have you had the fish?)
Apistogrammoides Pucallpaensis. Male. Immature. I had it for 7 weeks

What are the symptoms? Any changes in look, behaviour, bearing, buoyancy, fecies?
Elevated breathing and torpor. A crimson blush coming back from the head on the flanks. This blush was asymmetrical and more visible on one side than the other.

How long has the problem been going on? (Timeline?)
Only a few days. Ended with fish death

What's the full stocking list?
12 emerald eyed rasbora. 4 harlequin rasbora. 4 emperor tetra, 3 otocinclus, 6 kuhli loaches, 1 L270 chocolate tiger pleco, cherry shrimp, trumpet snails, 2 apistogrammoides (now 1)

Any changes in the behaviour of the other fish?
No.

What size is the tank? (Preferrably dimensions, not volume!)
90cm x 35cm x 45cm tank.

How long is the tank running?
2.5 years

Have there been any changes in the past 2 months? New animals, plants, decoration?
No. Other than the 2 apistogrammoides. I would have added 2-3 more leaves to the tank during that period. I've been adding these leaves progressively for some months now, longer than the cichlid fish have lived in the tank.

What food are the fish fed? How much, how often?
Grindal worms twice daily. Some hikari micropellets. Hikari bottom feeder pellets daily for the bottom feeders. The cichlids were basically only eating the grindal worms, but the male was starting to pick at the bottom feeder pellets.

What is the temperature?
26deg. C

What are the water parameters? (Please note all known tank and source water parameters in numbers! Not "good", "optimal" or "perfect"!)
pH:
~6.4
GH: 5
KH: 5
EC/TDS: 135
NO3: close to 0
NO2: ~0
NH3/4: ~0

What test kit did you use? (liquid, strips, store service?)
API freshwater master test kit

Are you using water conditioners or any other additives? (e.g. dechlorinators, humic/blackwater extracts, fertilizers)
Just fertilizers and dechlorinater after water change.
Seachem flourish, and Seachem macros (K,N,P)
I'm injecting CO2 and adding ferts twice a week. Stripping out excess floating plants and stem plants on a weekly basis. If I miss a dose or 2 of the ferts the stem plants start to have stunted growth very quickly. There's a bit of BBA, but no significant algae otherwise.

What filter are you using? (Canister, sponge, internal, mattenfilter?)
External canister

What's the maintenance regimen? (Waterchange volume and frequency, thorough cleaning of filters/substrate?)
~35% water change every 2-3 weeks. Never clean substrate. Clean canister every 3-4 months. It's generally pretty clean due to pre-filter

Have there been any chemicals used around the tank? (Cleaning agents, room sprays, wall paint, adhesives...)
No


Have there been any pesticides, fungicides or herbicides used around the tank?
No

Are there any unknown animals in the tank?
There are some planaria but nothing else noticed

What has been done already? (Timeline!)
nothing

If so, what meds have been used? (Timeline!)

Please provide pictures/videos of the fish AND tank in question!
IMG_3777.jpeg
 
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MacZ

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,119
Location
Germany
Allright, thanks for filling out the template!

I see some things to consider that are known problem, though you might be able to confirm or deny the suspicions.

I had it for 7 weeks
Elevated breathing and torpor. A crimson blush coming back from the head on the flanks. This blush was asymmetrical and more visible on one side than the other.
Allright, so for the plain diagnosis: It was an unspecific bacterial infection. The ysymptoms are spot on for bacterial problems, sadly for bacterial problems caused by millions of different bacteria. This is not down to a specific bacterium like Flavobacterium (aka Columnaris) or Mycobacterium (Fish-TB). The usual cause is a weakened immune system and acclimation/adaptation problems. 7 weeks says the fish has gone through quarantine?
What's the full stocking list?
12 emerald eyed rasbora. 4 harlequin rasbora. 4 emperor tetra, 3 otocinclus, 6 kuhli loaches, 1 L270 chocolate tiger pleco, cherry shrimp, trumpet snails, 2 apistogrammoides (now 1)
Quite a stock for that tank size. Have you noticed any interactions? I would expect food competition with the rasboras and tetras as well as nightly disturbance from the pleco. The latter would fit the description of finding the cichlid near the surface.
I would have added 2-3 more leaves to the tank during that period. I've been adding these leaves progressively for some months now, longer than the cichlid fish have lived in the tank.
Humic substances from the leaves usually prevent problems like your fish experienced. I would add more.
but the male was starting to pick at the bottom feeder pellets.
Could have caused a run-in with the pleco.
What's the maintenance regimen? (Waterchange volume and frequency, thorough cleaning of filters/substrate?)
~35% water change every 2-3 weeks. Never clean substrate. Clean canister every 3-4 months. It's generally pretty clean due to pre-filter
More waterchanges would be advised. Keeping the pathogen counts low is highest priority.

Otherwise I can't find any hints.

So a mix of acclimation stress, less than ideal tankmates and maybe a bit of lacking water hygiene may have caused this in combination. That's as close as you will get to the reasons.
 

Tristero

New Member
Messages
6
Quite a stock for that tank size. Have you noticed any interactions? I would expect food competition with the rasboras and tetras as well as nightly disturbance from the pleco. The latter would fit the description of finding the cichlid near the surface.

thanks MacZ.
Yes. I'd been wondering about the stocking levels. But the plants are so dense that my main struggle always seems to be supplying them with sufficient nutrient. That's why I've been lenient with water changes.

I had assumed that water quality was really just about pH, hardness, and nitrogenous waste. Are bacterial levels independent of this, and something I need to worry about?

There was definitely competition over food but that was why I was feeding quite a lot. The cichlids must have been getting enough worms and shrimp nymphs because they were growing strongly - at least the male was. Interactions were quite benign with the male starting to see off the emperor tetras if they wanted the same space. With such dense foliage the cichlids and the loaches could just disappear into the plants for private space.

The pleco is a small species (10cm max), and only about 7cm long at this stage. It does shoulder competitors out of the way over food but looks much less aggressive than the bristlenose I have in another tank. I had only read about plecos as safe community fish. Is this something I need to reassess if I ever want to add small cichlids back into this tank later? I'm also thinking I might move out the tetras and the harlequin rasboras.

I will definitely add more leaves and alder cones, though I already have quite a bit in the tank. And I will increase my rate of water changes.

I've learnt so much about the hobby in the last two years but I still have a lot to learn. When you say acclimation stress are you saying that the stress of moving into a new tank left it vulnerable to infections? Other than drip acclimation, is there anything that I can do better on that front? (from memory I didn't drip acclimate but just did a staged acclimation over about 40 minutes when those two cichlids arrived in the mail from a home breeder.)
 

anewbie

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,424
Fyi: this species is perfectly happy and readily breed in kh 3 gh 6 tds 120 water - because i've kept them in tap with those parameters for about 2 1/2 years now. Btw your fish really didn't look much like my males.
 

MacZ

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,119
Location
Germany
Are bacterial levels independent of this, and something I need to worry about?
See, softwater fish (as are most species from the wider Amazon and Orinoco basins) are especially vulnerable to bacterial infections. The waters they come from usually have very low conductivity and TDS, usually the former below 10-20µS/cm and TDS under 10mg/L and a pH between 4 and 6.5 (depending on the season). In these conditions bacteria are not a threat. Whether the fish have adapted to those parameters to escape bacteria or vice versa we cannot tell.
In captivity the usually possible closest approximation is a EC of 50µS/cm, 30mg/L TDS and a pH around 5.

In practice this means: Either recreate these parameters, cheat using a UV steriliser (30 watt and up) or do regular high volume waterchanges. Otherwise the fish will always be somewhat sickly and stay in a subpar state.

The pleco is a small species (10cm max), and only about 7cm long at this stage. It does shoulder competitors out of the way over food but looks much less aggressive than the bristlenose I have in another tank. I had only read about plecos as safe community fish. Is this something I need to reassess if I ever want to add small cichlids back into this tank later? I'm also thinking I might move out the tetras and the harlequin rasboras.
I know the species of pleco and it's not that they are especially aggressive. But they get easily more than double the size of an average Apistogrammoides. The problem is rather they are nocturnal, at least partially. And the cichlids are diurnal. What you described of the cichlid being at the surface is a classic sign of being basically kicked out of bed by the pleco at least several nights. It's not on purpose it is just a byproduct of the pleco activity at night. That can cause massive stress. And stress, be it environmentally, socially or predatorily caused is the number one cause of death for dwarf cichlids. Removing the rasboras and tetras is probably not a bad idea. Oh and btw, the tetras are not emperor tetras (Nematobrycon palmeri) but royal tetras (Inpaichthys kerri).
Adding other cichlids might be a gamble. Established cichlids might not like the competition. Also I read your possible plan in the other thread, so if any, get A. borellii. I wouldn't do it as I find single cichlid species tanks which are the better choice. In any case Laetacara will grow to triple the mass of Apistogrammoides and if they don't kill them outright, they will at least outcompete them.

I've learnt so much about the hobby in the last two years but I still have a lot to learn. When you say acclimation stress are you saying that the stress of moving into a new tank left it vulnerable to infections? Other than drip acclimation, is there anything that I can do better on that front? (from memory I didn't drip acclimate but just did a staged acclimation over about 40 minutes when those two cichlids arrived in the mail from a home breeder.)
I did not mean acclimation as in acclimation when introducing to a tank but the whole package: Acclimatioin to your water, establishing in the tank, getting used to the food etc. The choice between drip and cup acclimation is due to the differences in water parameters. The higher the difference in EC (or hardness if you can't measure that) the better to do drip. I always have to do drip as my tanks are far off our local tap readings. Usually I drip for 2-3 hours.

Fyi: this species is perfectly happy and readily breed in kh 3 gh 6 tds 120 water - because i've kept them in tap with those parameters for about 2 1/2 years now. Btw your fish really didn't look much like my males.
But with what maintenance regimen? Especially waterchanges?
 

anewbie

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,424
p.


But with what maintenance regimen? Especially waterchanges?
I do a 50% water change once a week. I've been breeding them in a 10; right now there is about 6 of them in there but the original parents and larger ones were moved to a ~180 gallon aquarium; however the male with the females while small is apparently able to hanky panky because they had frys last week.
 

Tristero

New Member
Messages
6
Thank you everyone for this excellent advice. I've only got limited space so I don't have the luxury of adding extra tanks, but I'm going to use your advice to do better with what I've got.

I'm going to:
  • pause my cichlid ambitions for the moment. I still want, want, want them but my aquarium is looking good as it is - I should enjoy what I've got
  • Increase water changes
  • Install a sterilizer - all my ambitions lean towards softwater fishes from tannic waters, and I know myself well enough that I will probably maintain higher stocking ratios. In the past I've lost the odd fish to what was almost certainly the same issue with bacteria
  • Before I consider adding any cichlids in the future I will reduce the number of dither fish, by rehoming the tetras and harlequin rasboras for instance.
  • Keep lurking here to continue to learn
 

Cichlacat

New Member
Messages
22
The dwarf acaras might be a better choice than apistos. I think they will out eat the tetras and rasboras. They are beautiful in their own right. Maybe keyhole. I’ve had good results with a similar tank you’re describing with a couple of angels and Ivanacara idoketa or zebra acaras. Eventually as they grow larger the zebra acaras might eat smaller rasboras and cardinals.

Everyone is correct about the rummy nose tetras. They are little piggies and bullies.
 

anewbie

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,424
The keyholes i have are adorable but I think your aquarium is too small for them or even dwarf acaras. You want something smallish - my laetacara are in a 550 but previously i had them in a 40B and i'd not put them in anything smaller than a 40B; the keyholes i have are in a 180 (72 inches long and 30 inches front to back); while they could go in a 40B again i don't think i'd put them in a 29 though it might work. I used to keep cardinals in a 29 but quite frankly now that i've gone larger I'm not sure i'd put them in a tank that size again; cardinals are as bad as rummy but a *lot* less active which can be important. My phrase for cardinals is they like to sit still all day long looking pretty.
--
By the way i keep my pucallpaensi in a 10 with shrimps; i have been slowly moving them to a 4ftx4ft box; and will note two things - they grow a lot larger when moved and look a lot nicer on black substrate (the 10 has black substrate and was not prepared for them changing colour when moved to the new aquarium which has caribsea jungle river. Jungle river is a deep tan; it looks nicer than hth pool filter sand but isn't as fine as either the black substrate or pool filter sand (it is fairly fine for a caribsea substrate but i would not use it with explicit earth eaters like geo). However it is nice looking stuff.
-
The black substrate i use is estes stony river; kind of pricey and not dissimilar to bbs - but i have several aquariums setup with it for 4+ years and unlike the caribsea substrates no 'bad' pockets have developed in it so it must breath fairly well and certain fishes look really nice on it - the negative is that it has to be washed for years to get it clean.
 
Last edited:

Tristero

New Member
Messages
6
Thanks everyone. Other than the 90cm tank I've got 2 30cm cubes - and I'm considering moving my remaining apistogrammoides to one of those - it's a female so quite small, and it seems to have stopped growing. My main issue stopping me is the challenge of catching it in such a heavily planted tank. I may have to wait until I restructure it.

Has anyone tried catching a fish with a home made fish trap? I could potentially make one from a small drink bottle. (though I'd probably just catch kuhli loaches :). )
 

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