How to Treat Ich or White Spot Disease On Freshwater Fish


How to Treat Ich or White Spot Disease on Freshwater Fish

Ich is one of the most common diseases that your aquarium fish can encounter. Many different approaches exist for combating this illness, but based on more than a decade of experience running 100 to 200 tanks in a fish store and importing wild-caught species, this is our go-to method for treating ich.

What is Ich?

The Ichthyophthirius multifiliis prozoan, also known by the name ick or white spots disease, attaches itself to your fish’s body and fins. They form a tiny white capsule that is usually less than 1mm in diameter. After feeding off the fish and growing to maturity, it falls off the fish, encapsulates itself on the ground or other aquarium surface, and rapidly replicates itself. Once the replication is complete, the cyst breaks open and hundreds of new ich protozoa are released into the water, capable of swimming for two to three days until they locate a new host to attack. The better the chance that your fish will fully recover if caught and treated early.

This microscopic view of ich shows it in its trophont stage. It is below the skin of the fish.

Does My Fish Have Ich?

An ich fish will look like it has tiny crystals all over its body. It’s almost like someone sprinkled salt on the fish. We tend to notice ich on the fins first since there’s less slime coat in those areas and it’s easier for the parasite to target. Other symptoms include loss of appetite and rapid breathing. Fish may also rub their bodies against surfaces or hide.

Five spots today may be caused by an external parasite. Tomorrow, it could be 35 spots. Stress ich is a condition that affects fish and covers their entire body (not just their fins). You may see five spots today, and then the same amount tomorrow. It is possible that stress ich has occurred. The treatment will not be the same as the one listed below.

In a rough analogy ich could be described as chickenpox. These are skin conditions caused by an infectious microbe. Stress acne is a condition that is caused by hormones. There are many treatments for chickenpox and stress acne. The same goes for ich. Check out our article on stressich for more details.

Clown loaches are prone to ich, especially if the water temperature is not high enough for their liking.

Can Ich Affect Humans

Thankfully, no. You will not be infected if you touch the aquarium water. However, make sure to thoroughly wash your hands and forearms so that you will not accidentally pass the disease to other aquariums. Do not share siphons or nets among fish tanks. If you must reuse aquarium tools, you can disinfect them with very hot tap water and chlorine and then allow the items to completely dry before reuse.

What is the Best Ich Treatment for You?

There are numerous techniques for treating ich, from gentle herbal solutions to very invasive ones, but after years of testing, Aquarium Solutions Ich-X is our medication of choice. It can be used with all fish (including scaleless), shrimp, snails and live plants.

1. First identify the disease. Second, confirm it is ich. Since stress ich and velvet also look very similar, it may be helpful to wait 24 hours and confirm the diagnosis. 2. Dose Ich-X according to the instructions, which is 5 ml of medication per 10 gallons of aquarium water, and wait 24 hours. For sensitive fish, do not use a half-strength dose as it will not kill the ich. After treating thousands of fish, we have never seen a problem with any species.) 3. Change one-third of the water and dose the aquarium again at the same concentration of 5 ml of Ich-X per 10 gallons of water. Remember to add enough medication to treat the total water volume of the aquarium, not just the volume of the water removed. 4. You can repeat Step 3 every 24-hours until you see no signs of ich. 5. For one additional day after your last ich, complete Step 3. This is to make sure there are no cysts in the ground. The only way the medication can kill protozoa when they are free-swimming is if they are not enclosed in a cyst. 6. Leave the medication in the water and gradually remove it over time with your regular water change routine. 7. After treatment, the fish’s body has lots of wounds and tissue damage, making it an ideal environment for bacterial and fungal pathogens, so you may need to treat for secondary infections.

The active ingredient in Ich-X is malachite green chloride, which has a strong blue coloration, so avoid touching the liquid if at all possible. In our experience, we have not noticed any problems with blue staining on aquarium decor or silicone.

If you don’t see improvement in 5 days, it is likely that the disease has been misdiagnosed. Stop treating with Ich-X, gradually remove it using your normal water change schedule, and reevaluate the diagnosis.

You can also use salt to treat Ich-X if Ich-X cannot be found in your area. It is often used with goldfish, cichlids (both African- and South American), and cichlids. However, salt can also be used to treat ich in catfish and loach species. For more details on using salt to treat ich, read our blog post on aquarium salt.

Is Ich Always Present in Aquariums?

This is a hotly debated question among fish keepers, but regardless of the answer, the key is to always run your aquariums as if it is there. Opportunistic diseases are common in fish that are stressed or weak. Find out the reason your fish have ich. Did you introduce new fish to your aquarium without quarantining them first? Did the tank have rapid temperature and pH changes? It is possible to avoid future outbreaks of ich by maintaining a high water quality and minimising stress sources.

Fortunately, ich can be treated quickly and most fish will survive it, even if they already have compromised immune systems. Always keep a bottle of Ich-X on hand in case of emergencies because you don’t want to be forced to run to the store late at night and use a random product that may end up harming your fish. You can get rid of those white spots quickly with the right medication, patience and some good advice.