Oscar Struggles w. Infection

Big Vine

Elite Fish
Feb 7, 2006
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#1
Other oscar owners may benefit from this, so I'm putting it here in the lounge for everyone to see.
Mods feel free to move and/or copy the thread if you feel it would be helpful elsewhere on the forum.

Simply put, my 6.0" (TL) oscar ('Triton') recently developed what appears to be a bacterial infection.
Visible symptoms were concentrated primarily on the gill-plate. (date of pics: Oct. 7, 2007)



These symptoms match some of those that have been documented over on the Oscarfish.com :: Home website by a member who goes by the username 'Doc Bottom.' Doc Bottom works for a vet, and he went so far as to have a tissue culture taken from his oscar ('John Satisfaction') and sent to a lab. To use Doc Bottom's words:
"The bacteria infecting John Satisfaction was Aeromonas veronii biovar sobria...and the drug that destroys it best is Enrofloxacin (sold by the Bayer Corporation under the trade-name Baytril)."

Doc Bottom's article on what has become known as "John Satisfaction Syndrome" (JSS) covers all disease-related information much better than I possibly could: Oscarfish.com :: Article Database The article also covers some of Doc Bottom's experiences with successfully treating John Satisfaction using Baytril injections, and it is definitely worth a read for any oscar owners who might suspect something to be wrong with their oscar(s).

Originally it was widely believed that the JSS symptoms were merely a form of HITH (hole-in-the-head) disease, which is indicative of water-quality issues. For Doc Bottom's oscar (and many other oscar owners out there), this did not seem to make sense---he kept John Satisfaction's water pristine, after all. It was not until his further investigation and research that the distinction between JSS and HITH has become apparent.

Up next, I will document my experiences in treating Triton.
BV
 

Big Vine

Elite Fish
Feb 7, 2006
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#2
Background Info

Some background information first...

Not long after purchasing Triton in early June, some pics I took revealed some concerning 'anomalies' with respect to his sensory pits. After much discussion with the folks over on the Oscarfish.com :: Home forum, it was concluded that this could possibly be the early signs of HITH. Not knowing for certain, it was decided that the best course of treatment would involve keeping water quality at its best (which it just so happens constitutes the prevention and cure for HITH).

Needless to say, I was perplexed.
I thought I had been doing a good job with regards to my oscar's water quality---performing a water change as soon as nitrAtes hit 10 PPM.

More was going on 'behind-the-scenes' than I thought...
I had Triton for probably a good month or so by the time I realized that my tapwater pH had changed (~8.6 vs. 7.2 in my tank). I also at that time conducted further tests and discovered that my tapwater contained 0.5 PPM ammonia; indicating the use of chloramines by my tapwater company. Unfortunately, my previous water conditioner was not designed to neutralize ammonia in the water (unlike Prime, which is what I switched to). I am now forced to age my tapwater to allow the pH to drop.

Up until a week ago my failure to use a heater in my 13 gal. bucket (for aging tapwater) meant that I was doing 20% water changes using water that was 10 degrees cooler than that of the tank (70*F vs. 80*F). Enough of a disparity to make somewhat of a difference.

Tiger barbs were also an insidious cause of stress.
Very first day I got Triton home, the barbs began nipping at him mercilessly. Within a day or so he began asserting himself, after which point they would not go near him. Matter of fact, he ate a handful of them in the months that followed. It would seem that I had no reason to be concerned, right? Well as soon as I got him home today, the 6 remaining tiger barbs began pestering him. They nipped at him as he lay at an angle, sulking against the gravel. He avoided them for the most part, but they still acted as an obvious source of agitation for Triton; hence my decision to remove them all permanently. I have also permanently removed what I always thought was a leopard cactus pleco who supposedly should reach about 8-10" yet, perplexingly, still remains at the size he was upon purchasing him months ago (meaning a bite-sized snack for Triton, which is a definite no-no when it comes to spiny plecos...thankfully he hadn't ever gotten it lodged in his throat before I removed it from the tank).

In sum, there have been plenty of stressors for Triton who, under normal circumstances according to the vet, ought to have been able to fight off infection on his own.

Up next I will tell you about Triton's experience at the vet's, his course of treatment, and the subsequent changes I have made to his tank setup in order to help him on the road to recovery.

BV
 

Big Vine

Elite Fish
Feb 7, 2006
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#3
Triton's Vet Visit

Yesterday I got back from the vet...60 bucks later (~$30 for the examination fee; ~$30 for the medication).

He examined my oscar, weighed him (apparently he's close to 200 grams), and then took a tissue sample (from the gill-plate area where the visibly affected tissue was). Left for a few minutes, then returned to say that it is definitely an infection. As to exactly what---well---he said that it would need to be sent out to a lab and tested to know for certain. He also examined Doc Bottom's JSS article.

He gave me 2 weeks' worth of Baytril injections---to be injected every other day. I asked him whether or not treating the tank with a product called Seachem Neoplex (a neomycin-based antibiotic tank treatment which, incidentally, Doc Bottom used toward the end of treating his oscar) at the same time would be of benefit, and he basically told me that the Baytril should do its job.


Some remarks I made yesterday afternoon on the oscarfish forum right after getting home from the vet...

"Poor Triton looks horrible...in large part due to the whole removing him from the tank fiasco (slimecoat damage mainly, which really shows up on a darker fish like him). Some minor scrapes too, but it should all heal up.

Based on what I see as he is in his 'sulking state' at the moment that I'm typing here, I now am able to confirm that the tiger barbs are in fact acting as a nuisance and stressor for him. Accordingly, I will be removing them permanently from his tank as soon as I'm done typing this post."

Up next I'll go over some of the changes I've made to Triton's setup.
BV
 

Big Vine

Elite Fish
Feb 7, 2006
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#4
Triton's 'New' Setup

Now that I have permanently removed all of his previous tankmates, Triton now officially lives in an oscar-only tank.


As you can see from the pic, I also decided to remove much of the driftwood and some of the plants. The scrapes you see on his side were mostly from all of the upheaval yesterday when I had to remove him from the tank to get him to the vet...and that's not even the side that the tissue sample was taken from! :eek:

The benefits of the new arrangement should be fairly self-explanatory, but by all means feel free to ask questions about it and/or about anything related to what I have written in this rather lengthy series of posts.

I will now answer questions...
BV
 

Helena21

Superstar Fish
Oct 7, 2005
1,850
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#5
Wow BV, sounds really funny to say that you took a fish to a vet AND you have to inject him! thats madness!
Was it a special fish vet or just a normal one?

Anyway, i hope Triton gets better soon :)
edit: loving that big flowerpot :) :p
 

Big Vine

Elite Fish
Feb 7, 2006
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#8
Glad you like the flower pot, Helena.
It's kinda big, but I wanted to get one that would accomodate his adult size. Plus, it won't be stuck in a 'little' 55 gal. tank forever anyway---I've still got my hopes up for saving enough dough for a 75 gal. for Christmas. ;)

About the vet...
Basically I had to call around to a bunch of places to ask whether or not any of their vets dealt with fish. Finally I found this guy (who, to my knowledge, works with your more 'typical' household pets as well), and we discussed a bit about Triton's condition over the phone before I brought him in.

I transported him in a cooler, so it's not like anyone in the waiting room was able to see him...would have been funny to see some reactions if they knew what was inside though, lol.

The vet seemed fairly 'matter of fact' about the whole thing.
My guess is that he took some time in the afternoon before I came in to give himself a little 'refresher' on fish ailments so that he'd be more prepared for what Triton and I had in store for him. It was funny, because he always commented on how strong Triton was whenever he had to scoop him up out of the cooler and into a bowl---he splashed around like crazy!

I'm certainly not looking forward to his injection tomorrow---which is the first one I'll be giving to him by myself. It's not so much the actual injecting that worries me but, rather, the struggling that will be involved in getting Triton up and out of the tank. I'll probably remove the light strips and glass lids altogether and set them aside on the floor so that I have space to stick a big bowl in there and scoop him up and out of the tank. Netting sucks, so I'm gonna try to stay away from using the nets, if at all possible.

Wish us luck!
BV
 

Big Vine

Elite Fish
Feb 7, 2006
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#11
Injection

Thanks Avalon and JW.
I'd be happy to keep going on an update of all the pertinent details in the hopes that it will help others.

Let's start with an update on how I administered Triton's injection...
First, I had to get him out of the tank, but I did not want to net him. Accordingly, I removed the light strips and glass lids, and used a plastic bin with holes in it to scoop him up to the water's surface. At that point, I should have secured him with a net, but instead he ended up flopping out and onto the carpet---hence the slime coat and scale disturbances you see in the following pic.


My initial intent was to inject intramuscularly through his pectoral fin muscle, because I had read that the site was less likely to experience 'blowback' (when a portion of the injected drug exits from the injection site upon withdrawal of the syringe) than other areas. This ideal proved impractical with the amount of struggling Triton was doing, so I instead chose to insert the syringe into the thick muscle midway between the lateral line and the dorsal fin. I inserted the syringe at a slight angle between two scales with the needle aimed in the direction of his head.

You can see the injection site on the darker patch of coloration where one of his scales appears to be slightly raised.


Overall, his slimecoat is in better condition than it was yesterday.
His behavior has changed somewhat since the injections began and since the rearrangement of his tank aquascaping.

Up next, I will give a brief rundown of his behavior as of late.
BV
 

Big Vine

Elite Fish
Feb 7, 2006
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#12
Behavioral Changes

Oscars are known for their 'sulking' behavior---particularly when introduced to a new tank or when their current tank environment is changed in any way. Accordingly, I would not find it odd for Triton to 'sulk' after rearranging his tank. The antibiotic injections certainly would be expected to trigger some behavioral changes as well.

It turns out that he has sulked somewhat, but not as much as you might expect. This didn't surprise me, because Triton didn't take long at all to adjust to his new tank on the very first day I brought him home. Nevertheless, you can tell from his lighter coloration in the following pic that he was somewhat distressed a little while after today's injection.


As a matter of fact, this is what I have been seeing the majority of time now whenever I look into his tank. This is an example of sulking behavior---normally Triton would be out and about, swimming around and watching me.


In spite of the major upheavals he has been encountering, I'm happy to say that Triton is acting like himself for the most part. He fed within minutes of his injection this morning, and he has since spent at least some of his time (when his back isn't turned toward me, lol) up at the front of the tank watching me at my computer desk (as he normally does).


He has been swimming around as well, albeit not nearly as much as he used to prior to the injections. Mostly I attribute this to sulking behavior as opposed to any actual physical trauma from the injection process. The fact that he has been feeding is a good sign, and I can tell that he has kept his strength up based on all the water he splashed on the carpet whilst netting him this morning.

I'll end this update with a pic of him swimming about the tank not long after his injection...


BV
 

IDunnoWhy

Superstar Fish
Nov 16, 2006
1,058
2
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50
Deerfield, WI
#14
Fantastic Informative thread BV! (Shame it has to come at Tritons distress :( )

Although I don't have an Oscar, this info could still be very useful. I agree with Avalon & JW, this thread could definitely serve as a nice resource for Oscar treatments (or at least this specific issue).

Do you know if this particular ailment is Oscar specific? or is possible to infect other species?

Anyway, keep us posted, and good luck with Triton's therapy! (poor lil' guy :( )
 

Big Vine

Elite Fish
Feb 7, 2006
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#15
Thanks, Denny.
IDunnoWhy said:
Do you know if this particular ailment is Oscar specific? or is possible to infect other species?
Definitely not oscar-specific...

The bacteria believed to be responsible for Triton's infection is ubiquitous (present everywhere) in water. Normally, fish living in healthy conditions would not be affected. Unfortunately, Triton's water quality had been fluctuating for quite some time before I realized it and before I was able to begin taking steps to correct it. He was stressed and immuno-compromised, leading me to believe that this is why infection was able to set in.

As to why we have been associating this bacteria with infections in oscars...
I'd have to guess that the main explanation would be the fact that oscars are such personable fish. They are quite long-lived when kept in healthy living conditions (to put it in perspective...Triton should out-live my pug, who was still a puppy just a few short months ago). In sum, they have been deemed worthy of receiving medical treatment that goes beyond what your average aquarist would ever consider providing for the vast majority of fish.

BV
 

Big Vine

Elite Fish
Feb 7, 2006
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#16
Update ***PICS***

Pics that follow were taken two days ago.

The gill-plate infected tissue was mostly scraped off by the vet when he had a closer look at the tissue sample. It seems to be healing up, and it does not appear that any further signs of infection are setting in on that particular area.

My initial concern with Triton began with his head/'temple' area in and around what I had, earlier on, deemed to be perhaps early onset of HITH---I would like for folks to focus on this area as well when looking at the pics.








Overall, I've noticed that he seems to be getting a much smoother appearance to his head and especially 'temple' areas. There seems to be less slimecoat production in these locations than there was prior to treatment (which I thought was somewhat excessive, indicating irritation/illness), and the lighter grey patches (mostly inside each cluster of sensory pits on the head area) he had---check out my earlier pics in this thread---seem to be darkening to the color of the rest of his body.

Note: I gave injection 4 of 7 before these pics were taken...leaving 3 more to go (Tues., Thurs., Sat.).

BV
 

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IDunnoWhy

Superstar Fish
Nov 16, 2006
1,058
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Deerfield, WI
#17
Thanks for the update!

I know it's been said, but I really need to applaud you for going this far with "just a fish" Your setting a great example for people that are just starting out in this hobby, as well as those that have been doing it a long time. *thumbsups
 

MissFishy

Superstar Fish
Aug 10, 2006
2,237
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#18
Aww, poor Triton looks like he's had a rough few weeks. :( Hopefully he'll be feeling and looking better soon! I also applaud you for the effort you're putting in.

I just wish I could have heard the Vet telling his assistants that someone was bringing their fish in for treatment this afternoon. What a riot. I'll bet that doesn't happen often!
 

Big Vine

Elite Fish
Feb 7, 2006
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#19
Thanks Denny & MissFishy, I appreciate it.
Denny...I wish I could say that I'd be willing to go to these lengths for any fish, but sadly that's not the case. It just so happens that Triton is such a personable fish---such a good 'wet pet' who has really grown on me in the past months---that I could never let him go without a fight.

MissFishy...you're right---Triton has definitely had a rough time as of late.
His appetite has gone downhill over the past day or two. He's now mouthing on food and then spitting most of it out, so I have had to cut back on food offerings. I've been careful about removing any uneaten chunks as well.

Triton is scheduled for a vet appointment early Saturday morning.
At that time I'll know whether or not the antibiotic injections will need to be continued. Overall, he appears to be on the mend even in spite of his loss of appetite. I'll keep you updated...

BV