5 Most Common Cichlid Diseases

Fish get sick. It’s a fact of fish life. Caring for sick cichlids isn’t any fun, but it is your responsibility as a cichlid grower to bring their good health back. Neglecting your cichlids when they are sick may cause symptoms to worsen and lead to death.

There are many reasons why cichlids get sick. These can be caused by infections from bacteria, fungi, or parasites or by environmental factors such as poor water quality.

Here are some common cichlid diseases that you should watch out for:

  • Malawi bloat – This kind of cichlid disease is common among African cichlids and fish that are on a mostly vegetable diet. Symptoms include loss of appetite, swelling of the stomach, white feces, rapid breathing, and sulking at the bottom of the tank. At its advanced stage, Malawi bloat can damage the liver, kidney and swim bladder, and the affected cichlid may diet within 24 to 72 hours.

There is a lot of disagreement on the true causes of Malawi bloat, but some say it is caused by a protozoan that naturally resides in fish intestines, proliferating when the cichlid is not fed properly or when the water is dirty. Treatment for Malawi bloat entails adding Metronidazole and Clout to the water, changing up to 50 percent of the water, and removing the filters.

  • Swim bladder disease – This cichlid disease affects the swim bladder, an epithelium-lined abdominal sac responsibility for fish buoyancy. Cichlids affected by swim bladder disease float at the top of the water or find it difficult to stay on the bottom of the tank.

Poor diet is one of the major causes of swim bladed disease. When a cichlid is not fed right, it can have intestinal gas or blockage, irritating the bowel and giving bacteria or parasites the chance to wreak havoc on the swim bladder. You can minimize swim bladder disease by not feeding your cichlids too much protein or dried food and introducing lots of fiber-rich food such as zucchini, squash, peas, spinach, carrots, and lettuce.

  • Cotton wool disease – This is characterized by a whitish gray coating on the skin, ulcer, damaged fins, patches on the gills, and erosion of head tissue on fish. It is extremely contagious.

The fungus that causes cotton wool disease is found in many aquariums feeding on leftover food and fish carcass. Maintaining aquarium hygiene and preventing chilling, injury, and other forms of stress are some things you can do to prevent your cichlids from catching this disease. The best way to treat cotton wool disease is by salt bath immersion, gentian violet application, or fungicidal medication.

  • Fish tuberculosis – An extremely dangerous cichlid disease, fish tuberculosis is highly contagious and can wipe out an entire aquarium population. It can even be contracted by humans through cracks on the skin and cuts when they are fixing or cleaning the tank.

Among the symptoms of this cichlid disease are loss of appetite, sunken stomach, white exterior blotches, and frayed fins. If you suspect that one of your cichlids may have this disease, remove your entire aquarium population and place them in a hospital tank, making sure to separate the sick cichlid. Treat these new tanks with antibiotics like Melafix or Pimafix and make sure your old tanks are disinfected and the substrate bleached thoroughly or thrown out.

  • Hole-in-the-head disease – Also known as hexamita, this disease is typical among cichlids and other freshwater fish. Its symptoms are appetite and weight loss and small depressions on the head (thus the name “hole in the head”). There are many reasons for this disease, among them poor water quality and poor diet. Some studies have indicated that there could be a link between hole-in-the-head disease and the lack of vitamins C and D as well as phosphorous and calcium.

Most cichlid diseases are caused by poor water quality and diet, so clean your aquarium regularly and feed your cichlids right. It’s always good to be ready for cichlid diseases. Keep yourself well informed by reading books, researching, and networking with others so you know how to raise your cichlids happy and healthy.

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