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    Thread: Koi changed behavior, do I need to do something

    1. #1
      SimonW is offline Senior Member
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      Koi changed behavior, do I need to do something

      Hello friends:

      About 5 days ago I moved out my bigger koi (3 koi of 50 cm, 6 koi of 30-40 cm) from the over-wintering 1.5 m3 tank in my garage, and the remaining smaller koi (25 koi of 10-30 cm, I estimate the total body-mass has been reduced to 1/4) started to behave strangely. They stopped eating and just swim slowly against the current, and some even flash time to time.

      All the koi have been in that tank since October last year, and nothing has been changed: No new fish, no new biofilter, except a smaller air-pump which gives 2 m3 per hour now instead of 9 m3 when I moved out the bigger koi (have to use the big one for the out-door pond) and a much calmer current.

      I tested the water values, all seems to be as usual except nitrate:

      Ammonia: 0 ppm
      Nitrite: 0.1-0.2 ppm (It has always been like this. NaCl is always added to 150 ppm to remedy it)
      Nitrate: 100-150 ppm (no idea why it is higher now than before which was 40-80 ppm, despite that I have stopped feeding)
      pH: Not measured as I am adding NaHCO3 daily and the KH is about 5 dKH.

      Water has been changed 15% per day. Today I have increased water change to about 25% per day.

      I just wonder if I need to do more: Scraping and looking for parasites, or just let it be and see what will happen when the nitrate goes down? My philosophy of koi-keeping has been doing so little as possible, unless it is necessary to do more.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

    2. #2
      RichToyBox's Avatar
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      I don't know for sure about the fish, but they may be showing signs of trauma, having all of their big protectors moved out of the tank all at once. I know that predator visits to a pond will cause the fish to hang at the bottom and fall of their feed. I think I would give them a couple of weeks to calm down, keeping an eye on them for other signs of stress like increased flashing etc. I would also increase the addition of the bicarbonate of soda to get a KH of at least 6 drops and preferably, since it is constantly being consumed and your water changes seem to be reducing the KH instead of increasing it, go for 8 or 10 drops.

      "Our goal is to assist with emergency and Koi health issues, as well as educate on best practices. Please help us gain a clear picture by giving the original poster time to answer our questions before offering opinions and suggested treatments."

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      Update:

      The koi have started to flash frequently!

      I have done a big water change since 2 days ago: I removed most of the water so that only about 300 liters left, then I let new water trickle down into the tank for 2 days, totally about 900 liters now.

      The water values are:

      Ammonia 0, nitrite 0.1 ppm, nitrate 40-80 ppm, kH: 4 dKH which is about 70 ppm (keep increasing it). pH not measured as I am adding NaHCO3 constantly.

      Since they have started to flash I have taken out 5 koi and inspected them in a basket, and they all looked fine. Couldnīt see any visible lesion or slim coat.

      I have been told that even the healthy koi are carrying parasites, and they can overwhelm the koi and cause disease when the koi are in poor condition or stressed. I guess that taking out the bigger koi has been too stressful for the smaller ones, thereby some kind of parasites are now flourishing.

      I guess that I must do a scrape tomorrow.

      By the way all the bigger koi seemed to be OK in the out-door pond until today when I saw two flashed within a period of 3-4 hours. The pond has been drained last fall, refilled with natural rain-water and snow water, and kept fish-free until about 2 weeks ago. Its water values today:

      Ammonia 0, nitrite 0.1 ppm (quite a lot foam today as they seem to have spawned), nitrate 5-10 ppm, kH: 4 dKH which is about 70 ppm. pH not measured as I am adding NaHCO3 constantly.

      Very unpleasant indeed!
      Last edited by SimonW; 06-26-2020 at 07:56 PM.

    4. #4
      RichToyBox's Avatar
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      For the outdoor pond, I would just keep an eye on it, having only a couple of flashes in 3 or 4 hours is not sufficient to worry about treating. If it increases in frequency, then scrape and treat. For the smaller indoor facility, it looks like it may be time to treat with a formalin/malachite green formulation, followed by a fluke treatment, depending on the results of your scrape and scope. As I said before, I would increase the KH to 8 or 10 drops and based on current KH values, I think the pH will be high enough that a massive dose of NaHCO3 to get the KH up would not hurt anything. If the KH were at one drop, I would recommend slow and steady until the pH is over 8, which I suspect is the case already.

      "Our goal is to assist with emergency and Koi health issues, as well as educate on best practices. Please help us gain a clear picture by giving the original poster time to answer our questions before offering opinions and suggested treatments."

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    5. #5
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      Hello Richard:

      Thank you so much for your good advice!

      I have now done scaping, and I guess that what I saw was a fluke. I did scape both on the skin/scales and the gill, so I donīt know wether it is skin fluke or gill fluke. Video:

      https://youtu.be/1R26pwRtqtY

      I have bought fish medicine containing Dipterex or Trichlorfon. It says that it would kill fluke. I will use it. I just wonder if I need to have something in mind when using it, like how many times? Will it affect the nitrification bacteria? Will it be inactivated by UV-light?

      An other question:

      I plan to take out all my koi fron the out-door pond and put them in my over-wintering tank again for treatment. How long time do I need to keep the out-door pond fish-free before it is safe again to have fish in it?

      Thanks again!
      Last edited by SimonW; 06-27-2020 at 04:18 PM.

    6. #6
      RichToyBox's Avatar
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      Those are not our standard treatments, so go with manufacturers guidance on duration and frequency. Typically with out available treatments, a treatment stays in the pond for a week and then a large (30%) water change and a second dose. Most if not all of the available chemicals used are sensitive to UV so I would disconnect the UV for the duration of the treatment.

      Since the fish will be in the indoor tank for the treatment, which should probably be for 2 weeks, I would think that the pond will be good for them to go back at that time without worry. If they are egg laying, then the eggs will have had a chance to hatch and starve due to lack of fish.

      "Our goal is to assist with emergency and Koi health issues, as well as educate on best practices. Please help us gain a clear picture by giving the original poster time to answer our questions before offering opinions and suggested treatments."

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    7. #7
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      Thanks again Richard!

      I have treated my bigger koi in the pond anyway, using 0.3 ppm trichlorfon.

      Now I have a theoretical question: As fluke is as natural to fish as fleas to dogs, so do I really need to treat healthy koi even if I find fluke on them? The majority of my bigger koi show no sign of problem: Swimming around calmly, eating well, no flashing. Only 2 are flashing occasionally.

    8. #8
      RichToyBox's Avatar
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      Unless you see the fish being irritated and find a bunch, no treatment is necessary. As you say, parasites are always present, it is just when a stressor allows for the parasites to get ahead of the fish that they need to be treated.

      "Our goal is to assist with emergency and Koi health issues, as well as educate on best practices. Please help us gain a clear picture by giving the original poster time to answer our questions before offering opinions and suggested treatments."

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    9. #9
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      I just wonder how I can tell whether the medication has worked.

      Now I have treated the smaller koi for 2 days (1 time each day) and the bigger ones for 1 day. But they still flash, though not as much. It has not worsen anyway.

      By the way I have tested the pond water after addition of the medicine on mosquito larvae, chironomidae larvae and water flea, they all survived the medication. So have I used a too low dose?

      I have now ordered a new medicine containing Flubendazole. The koi have not got any visible damage on their body yet, so I guess that the fluke infestation is still on the early stage. I hope the new medicine will arrive soon.


      One more question: When I have emptied the pond will its biofilter die, when there is no fish producing ammonia to feed the bacteria? (I found the difficulty with koi-keeping is the chain-events: Change one thing and ten other things will be changed and none of them can be ignored!).
      Last edited by SimonW; 06-29-2020 at 09:43 AM.

    10. #10
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      Often the damage that has been being done by the parasites, causing flashing, takes some time to completely heal, so as long as the flashing is getting to be less and less, then that is a good sign. I am not sure of the medicine that you are using and its effect on the mosquito larvae, chironomidae larvae and water fleas, but the one for insects with a shell is not the same one that we would use for flukes or for costia and similar. We would be using Dimilin for the shelled insects, and the flubendazole for the flukes and a formalin/malachite green formulation for the smaller microscopic parasites.

      As for the filters, they will take a hit from not having any food source, but it will be rapidly brought back to its current state as soon as the fish are back in the pond. The number are in constant flux, based on amount of ammonia and nitrite present, which is a function of amount of food, increased size of fish, and activity levels.

      "Our goal is to assist with emergency and Koi health issues, as well as educate on best practices. Please help us gain a clear picture by giving the original poster time to answer our questions before offering opinions and suggested treatments."

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    11. #11
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      Thanks again, Richard!

      Something interesting I have noticed:

      I have been using the water from the tank (with those fluke-carrying koi) to my goldfish aquarium, last time I did it was the day before I found that fluke on one koi from the tank. The goldfish all look healthy, so do 3 smallest koi which have been living with the goldfish.

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      Most of my koi dont flash anymore, but they still have much less appetite for food than they used to be. They just swim round in the pond and take food slowly. No eager to food at all.

      One of them, this ochiba (so typical that this is my absolute favorite) has not taken any food since at least one week back. Today I caught it, sedated it and took a close look at it. Nothing, except that its gill seemed to be quite dark red (not bright red, not brown, not somehow dark red, but dark red). I dont know if it is normal. I am an experienced angler and normally fish gills are not so dark red, but slightly dark red. But it does not have any sign showing it has difficulty getting enough O2..

      Name:  20200703_201056 koiphen.jpg
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      I have not tested the water today but I donīt think any major changes have happened, as I am not feeding so much.

      Maybe it is caused by the medicine trichlorfon (I added second dose 2 days ago), or some other chemical besides NH3, NO2 and NO3 that is harmful, not parasites. As I said goldfish are not affected, happy as usual. That led me to this question:

      As fluke are usually present on healthy fish, so how big is the chance to get one in a scrape?
      Last edited by SimonW; 07-03-2020 at 05:54 PM.

    13. #13
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      I can't address the chances of finding a fluke when the number is low, but since I typically would take three scrapes of any fish that I scraped, if I only found one fluke on one slide, I didn't worry about it. If I found more than one on a slide or one on more than one slide then I considered it sufficient to treat.

      "Our goal is to assist with emergency and Koi health issues, as well as educate on best practices. Please help us gain a clear picture by giving the original poster time to answer our questions before offering opinions and suggested treatments."

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    14. #14
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      Quote Originally Posted by RichToyBox View Post
      I can't address the chances of finding a fluke when the number is low, but since I typically would take three scrapes of any fish that I scraped, if I only found one fluke on one slide, I didn't worry about it. If I found more than one on a slide or one on more than one slide then I considered it sufficient to treat.
      Thanks Richard, I think that I will do more scrapes tomorrow to be sure!

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      Today I did scraping on one koi, several places on its body. Nothing except a swimming algae (moving, but green). I start to realize the flashing problem was probably caused by too low KH.

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      I dont understand it:

      The KH is now like 120 ppm, and the koi look healthy and eat well. When I am at the pond and watch them they swim around, totally normal. When I go back to my house and look at the pond I see them flash, flash, flash, and occasionally jumping. Something is bothering them but I dont see any sign of disease!!!

      Ammonia: 0
      Nitrite: 0.2 ppm (NaCl added to about 300 ppm)
      Nitrate: about 20 ppm
      KH: About 120 ppm
      pH: Not tested, as I am adding NaHCO3 regularly.

      Maybe it is the pH. Must order pH-test. But I have read that koi can live happily in pH-range 6.2-10, and good & stable pH is mostly for the nitrification bacteria.

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      I have also taken a bit of loosing skin together with the slim around it from the injured koi, nothing there either. A photo:

      Name:  IMG_1235.jpg
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      I scraped its gill as well, so hard that it bled. Nothing.

      Then I sedated and scraped 2 small koi that are still living in the in-door tank. I found 1 gill fluke (with 4 black spots on its body) on the first koiīs body scraping, but none in its gill scraping. The other has many gill flukes in its gill scraping, but none on its body scraping. That makes me wonder so many questions:

      1) Why are they not equally infected? Is it true that some koi are better at fighting off flukes? All the koi had lived together once if not all the time.

      2) May the better water quality in the out-door pond have made the medication more effective, so that I could not find any fluke on the injured koi?

      3) Can healthy koi also carry gill fluke and keep it under control?

      4) Can infected koi fight off the fluke when it is moved into water with good quality?

      4) How fast do fluke outbreak goes? Especially the gill fluke. The water temperature is 18-22 centigrade.

      5) Maybe the most important thing: I also find fast-moving small things, like 1 mm when the amplification is 100X. They move by screwing they body. You can see them in the film below (only visible at 720p). They move so fast that I feel that they are a lot alike free-living protozoa. Probably they are not parasites as they appear to be non-residential. Video below:

      https://youtu.be/bFnSSaPH4qA

      Thanks for your thoughts again!
      Last edited by SimonW; 07-07-2020 at 02:55 PM.

    18. #18
      RichToyBox's Avatar
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      Couple of possible answers. One the small fast moving things could be costia. Costia does a flip type move that is very fast and are very small, usually need 400 power to be able to identify them.

      The fact that you have not taken a pH reading gives rise to the possiblity that the pH is very high. The NaHCO3 will push the pH up to 8.3/8.4 with good aeration to drive off CO2, but will not stop the pH from going very high, with significant pH swings to the high side with the reduction in acid carbon dioxide due to photosynthesis. If you do not have sufficient calcium in the water to react with the high pH carbonate ions, adding calcium chloride flake to the water will precipitate out calcium carbonate, removing the high pH carbonates from the solution.

      Frequency of multiplication of parasites is an area that I am not versed in calculating. I know that all fish carry some parasites in a symbiotic relationship, but when the fish becomes stressed, the parasites take advantage of the situation an multiply rapidly, overwhelming the immune system of the fish.

      "Our goal is to assist with emergency and Koi health issues, as well as educate on best practices. Please help us gain a clear picture by giving the original poster time to answer our questions before offering opinions and suggested treatments."

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    19. #19
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      Thank you again Richard! Since I started here you have always been giving us so useful advice!

      Now I am seriously considering taking the trouble and move all my bigger koi back into the over-wintering tank for treatment with malachite-formalin. The small koi in it right now will be moved out to a smaller tank for treatment, and before I put the big koi in it I will do a total cleaning of the tank with Na2CO3.

      Before I take this drastic action which means that this summer is spoiled I would like to ask 2 questions:

      1) Will malachite-formalin mix kill gill fluke eggs?

      2) How long will costia survive in a fish-free pond? The temperature is 18-20 centigrade (I dont know if it is necessary for me to convert centigrade to Fahrenheit for your convenience).

      3) What do you usually do when you have flashing koi but without sign of physical problem - no skin lesion, no damage in the gills despite that you have found small amount of parasites? Would you think that I can wait and see if the koi can fight off the parasites by themselves, especially when the water quality is very good?

      I ask this question also because I have read that koi are more often killed by over-medication than by parasites, and I want to be restrictive in medication.

      Thanks again!


      Update:

      Yesterday I gave the out-door pond with bigger koi and the in-door tank with small koi a new, third treatment with trichlorfon. Today I did so many scrapings that I have time to.

      Scraping of koi in the out-door pond

      I scraped both gills and body of 4 koi, and nothing was found, except no more than totally 5 small moving things, possibly costia and chilodonella (also can be free-living protozoa). I guess that they are so few that I donīt need to treat them?

      Two of these scraped 4 were those that had flashed most today. Visually there was not the slightest injury on their body, and their gills looked perfect (not like the gills of small koi I scraped last time which had small whitish slim).

      The other two were smaller koi that were hiding under the spawning brushes and refused to come out. I had to remove the spawning brushes to get them. They also have wounds on their body, similar to the one that laid on the bottom hade, therefore I gave them topical treatment with iodine solution. Except the wounds everything else was fine: Their gills looked good, and the rest of the body had no injury that could be caused by parasites.

      So I guess that the out-door pond is free from parasites now.

      So up to now 3 small koi have disappeared and 3 injured. I leave the remaining small koi in the pond, as I have no other place to have them, when the in-door tank has parasite problem. Then I realized that it is not good to have things in the pond that fish can hide, because I will not see injured ones that are hidden there, and I cannot treat them in time.

      Scraping of the small koi in the in-door tank.

      I did scraping on 4 av them, including the one that had a lot of gill flukes last time. This time I only found 2 gill flukes, and they are not active either. I even saw one dead gill fluke. Still some costia and chilodonella.

      I added NaCl to 0.5% to the in-door tank, as I read that costia and chilodonella, and even flukes donīt like salt. I also dipped these 4 koi in 1% NaCl for 30 min - 60 min (not as long as each other). I wonder:

      Will koi be hurt if 0.5% NaCl is present under a prolonged period?


      I will treat the in-door pond with malachite-formalin mix when it arrives. I just wonder if this mix can kill the eggs of gill flukes?

      Thanks for your thoughts again!
      Last edited by SimonW; 07-08-2020 at 03:40 PM.

    20. #20
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      Hard to be sure that I answer at least most of the questions. The fluke eggs will not be affected by the formalin malachite green. That is good for the costia, chilodonella, and other smaller parasites. As for the salt at 0.5%, some will say don't, but when I had a fish with very serious ulcer and dropsy, for osmoregulation assistance, I kept the fish for months at 0.8% with no damage.

      I still think it is possible that the pH is shifting during the day due to a low KH (carbonate hardness) and that can be irritating, causing flashing. In fact that would be about the only possible cause without parasites chewing on the fish.

      Fish problems generally fall into three categories, parasites, injuries, or water quality, and I generally like to take care of the water as it is needed even if the parasites and related injuries. Check the KH and get it above 100ppm, though I prefer over 150ppm.

      "Our goal is to assist with emergency and Koi health issues, as well as educate on best practices. Please help us gain a clear picture by giving the original poster time to answer our questions before offering opinions and suggested treatments."

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